Commentary

The Mobile Measurement And Metrics Miasma

  • by September 3, 2013
Consumers worldwide are rapidly shifting their media consumption to mobile devices. The mobile advertising ecosystem -- specifically smartphones and tablets -- presents huge opportunities (and unique ways) for brands and agencies to reach the right consumer at the right time and the right place using the right medium with the right advertising message.

However, despite the growth in the mobile advertising market, as well as the size of the audience, metrics and measurement of smartphone and tablet campaigns remains a significant challenge (and barrier) for agencies and brand marketers -- causing them to be more conservative in their mobile marketing spend and not fully embrace the channel.

While traditional metrics have been applied to the mobile industry, which makes sense to some extent, they don’t fully capture the breadth and depth of mobile -- which is capable of generating an incredible amount of intelligence around behavior and engagement with content, advertising, and real-world locations. Mobile advertising needs to have end-to-end metrics to truly understand the attitudinal, behavioral, social media and transactional response that cover all elements of a mobile campaign. This level of information will enable brands and agencies to measure performance and optimize at all phases of the campaign to ensure the best possible results. However, before we develop metrics that are more unique to the mobile ecosystem, we need to ensure that we have sound and stable measurement standards and reliable, consistent methodologies to understand audience behavior and ad effectiveness.

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Mobile -- which is complex, fragmented and both growing and evolving rapidly -- presents a very difficult challenge to develop an effective measurement framework. In mobile, we have mobile Web, downloadable, mobile search, mobile video and TV, mobile apps (the popularity of apps requires a measurement methodology that includes them as well), potentially text messaging (SMS and MMS), and so forth. Each has attributes that are unique to the channel, creating a complex measurement environment.

In addition to these channels, the mobile measurement landscape is further confounded by the fact that there are multiple operating systems, varying technologies, handsets, devices/platforms, and carriers across smartphones and tablets. The various players involved use different (counting) methodologies, which causes massive discrepancies and inconsistent measurement, metrics and reporting standards -- all inhibitors to getting a clear view of a campaign's ROI. Basically, the problem is fragmentation of information.

This is why most in the space argue the need for a common set of reporting metrics and measurement standards for smartphones and tablets to unlock greater spending and value like with all other advertising. Determining bottom-line value is of the essence. In addition, in order for mobile to compete with online and traditional media vehicles, getting standardized measurements of success is crucial. After all, without metrics that are apples-to-apples, how will both buyers and sellers of mobile advertising have enhanced confidence that the performance and effectiveness of campaigns can be consistently and accurately measured?

Agencies and brand marketers need to be able to measure the results of their campaigns and do this in a manner that is more consistent, repeatable and scalable, allowing easy comparison of the effectiveness of each campaign. One of the greatest frustrations facing agencies and brand marketers is the lack of consistency between their online advertising campaign initiatives and mobile.

Measurement has become a critical element to quantify the mobile opportunity to drive brand involvement. With the introduction of greater accountability, accuracy and consistency -- via standardized definitions, measurement and (set of) metrics -- to the medium, agencies and brand marketers will no longer see mobile advertising as a "trial and error" exercise, but as an effective medium for reaching and engaging the most accurately targeted audience possible, and absolutely integral to:

• Demonstrating the value of the mobile channel
• Marketers learning how to use mobile most effectively
• Increasing the credibility of mobile advertising
• Establishing mobile as a legitimate advertising medium
• Increased investment in the mobile space
• Helping to determine what and how much to allocate to mobile
• Making mobile a cohesive and integral part of the marketing mix
• Prioritizing mobile against other media
• Measuring the effectiveness of mobile in multichannel advertising initiatives

The growth in consumer usage as well as the increase in ad spending on mobile platforms underscores the urgent need for greater transparency, improved methodologies and standards for mobile audience measurement and advertising effectiveness and industry-accepted currency. This will not be easy -- measurement rarely is -- and it will require the cooperation of all key stakeholders in the industry, something that is not easily done.

I am not advocating that the industry just adopt the (legacy) online measurement models and metrics without taking into account the specific strengths and unique characteristics of mobile advertising. Mobile has many facets, so it will be difficult to apply a "one size fits all" model to measurement and metrics. Mobile is one of those moments in media history when new consumption patterns are rapidly evolving, opening the door to new approaches to measurement and (deeper) metrics.

'The value and success of mobile advertising isn't just about establishing standard measurement and metrics; it’s about figuring out how it helps across all media touchpoints. Mobile is not a stand-alone medium. It's a connective piece of a broader and comprehensive multichannel campaign and experience. If you measure it in isolation, you might be under-leveraging the value.

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