Marketers Confront Ongoing Data, Metrics Challenges

Rather than talking up their profession, experts at the OMMA Metrics and Measurement conference on Tuesday spent much of the day discussing the collective challenges they face.

One problem is that marketers don’t know what sort of data they’re looking for, said Andrew Edwards, CEO of Technology Leaders, a Web and multichannel analytics firm. 

Edwards said he has trouble getting marketers to articulate what sort of findings they require. He said marketers “often need a lot more guidance than you’d think. There’s always a conversation [with clients] because they typically start off with some rather vague ideas,” Edwards added.

Speaking for brand marketers, Chris Pyne, chief strategy officer at MediaCom US, said he loves data. Like many marketers, however, Pyne admitted that there is always the risk of drowning in the stuff.

However, even if marketers can -- with some third-party help -- hone in on the most relevant data, that doesn't mean they know how to act on it. For that reason, Lauren Moores, SVP of data and research at Compete, said she doesn’t like to give marketers direct data feeds.

All the same, Pyne said the effectiveness of measurement and analytics has improved dramatically. At one time, Pyne said he could achieve 5% to 10% improvements in campaign effectiveness; today, he can achieve around 50% improvements.

That said, some measurement experts are a bit wary.

For instance, Claudia Perlich, chief scientist at m6d, said she doubts whether predictive analytics will make much progress over the next few years. "Very little will change, at least on the level of perception,” Perhlich said at the OMMA conference. “I don’t think everyone will be able to do predictive modeling.” 

Although somewhat less cynical, Bill Seely, vice president of optimization and analytics at [x+1], said he believes the future of predictive modeling rests on the rise of “data-savvy marketers.” No rise, no future for predictive modeling, says Seely.

Along the same lines, Alex Yoder, CEO, Webtrends, noted Tuesday that the biggest inhibitor to technological progress is people. They stifle innovation for fear that new technology will threaten their jobs. Ultimately, the ad industry will embrace data -- and predictive modeling, specifically -- but only as the result of “pain avoidance.”

Throwing a grenade into a crowd of online researchers, Joel Rubinson, CEO of marketing and consulting firm Rubinson Partners, said Tuesday that they needed to completely rethink brand tracking.

Yes, marketers “need to reinvent brand tracking,” according to Rubinson. In particular, surveys are “insufficient,” he said. If marketers are tracking a brand with surveys alone, they are not positioned to succeed in social media and, more broadly, in digital, Rubinson insisted.

Inevitably, the OMMA Metrics conference got around to 3MS, a.k.a, Making Measurement Make Sense, a broad industry initiative conceived by the IAB, ANA, and 4As.

3Ms has three primary objectives: to define transparent, standardized and consistent metrics and measurement systems to simplify the planning, buying and selling of digital media in a cross-platform world; to drive industry consensus around solutions; and to establish a measurement governance model to support ongoing standards development, ensure compliance, and manage change in a rapidly evolving media climate.

Upon its inception, some industry thought leaders expressed their skepticism about the effort. Yet one such skeptic -- Josh Chasin, chief research officer at comScore -- says he’s seen the light, and is now a big fan of 3MS. “They’ve done a really nice job,” Chasin said Tuesday.

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