Why Campaign Measurement Falls Short -- And Why Automotive Industry Is Best Test Case For New Strategy

Ever since the first display ad was shown back in 1995, marketers have been promised that digital advertising would make their jobs easier because everything would have more measurable ROI. Here we are almost 20 years later, and marketers are asking why we’re not there yet.

True, we’ve made great strides, but on the whole, the solutions are still lacking. Typically, ad tech vendors offer reporting as part of a measurement product, but mostly what makes its way back to the advertiser is simple post-campaign analysis, often cobbled together by an agency with data from a multitude of vendors, presented in a nice-looking PDF or PowerPoint deck. These point-in-time reports are short on pragmatic insights that allow the advertiser to significantly improve a campaign while it is running by acting on results. It’s nearly impossible to assess the true ROI of the individual campaign, as well as the lift on the overall brand.

In many ways, the current state of measurement is particularly hard on the automotive industry, due to its complex purchasing decisions and varying buying cycles. At the same time, auto manufacturers and related dealership groups are some of the world’s biggest advertising spenders, investing heavily in both branding and direct-response initiatives that span television, digital and more.

What we really need is an approach that both speeds up the delivery of digital marketing data, and makes it more useful for active campaigns. To do this, marketers need access to nuanced data, in real time, that sheds insight into their sales funnel.

How will that look in action? Currently, auto brands can attempt to assess campaign performance by purchasing offline sales data from third-party companies. Unfortunately, it can take four to six months to compile that data, with varying levels of granular purchase information. It’s also delivered separately from media performance data, leaving little that can be done to adjust marketing strategy and tactics.

Is the consumer casually browsing for auto information, or is this a deep, in-market customer doing research for a planned purchase? Imagine if advertisers had the ability to sync real-time campaign performance data about interested car shoppers, and link that faster and more accurately to dealer-level offline sales data. Suddenly, marketers can assess the consumer’s stage in the buying process and optimize their campaign based on that information, regardless of which area of the sales funnel they’re targeting. This is especially significant now that we’re seeing a greater portion of the auto advertiser’s branding budgets shifting away from traditional television and into digital advertising.

Certainly, the industry has more work to do in order to provide marketers with the type of measurement needed. Auto advertisers focused on branding need a better way of understanding the impact of their reach. Those with response-driven goals need better ways to assess how their campaigns are influencing consumer action in terms of conversion criteria. And both need the kind of closed-loop analysis that allows them to optimize their respective campaigns and truly prove ROI.

Given that brands use multiple media partners, and the related difficulties of cross-vendor integrations, many advertisers and media agencies don’t have access to the kind of data that indicates active, in-market consumer behavior in a way that’s pragmatic and addressable. But we can – and should – work to get there. By better connecting information about product consideration, purchase intent and offline sales data, marketers can finally make good on the promise of modern advertising and all its accompanying data.

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