A Framework For Measuring Ad Outcome

One of the most important areas of ad measurement today is assessing the impact of a campaign on business outcomes.

The need to understand with accuracy and consistency whether an ad campaign has produced a desired result, and in doing so whether it produced a suitable “return on investment,” has long been the ultimate goal of most forms of ad measurement.

The central question for all advertisers and their agencies is whether their campaign and the media purchased to support it produce the outcome it was designed to achieve.

An entire industry -- attribution -- has evolved to service this need, building upon the principles of Media Mix Modeling, long favored in evaluation of print in particular among CPG brands and its offshoot, Multi-Touch Attribution, which looked to accomplish much of the same for digital advertising.

But is any of this outcome measurement dependable?  The reality is, it’s difficult to know.

The industry needs an agreed upon, well-vetted and researched set of standards to serve as the framework for the optimal approaches to outcome-based measurement, and to enable marketers to have a measuring stick of sorts to assess whether the providers they are working with satisfy standards that the industry as a whole has agreed to as best practices.



To that end, the Media Rating Council has embarked on a new phase in its efforts to set standards for high quality measurement, transitioning from a focus on ad delivery, which was the goal of our standards development work over the past few years, to a focus on ad outcome.

In taking this step, recently the MRC began work on an Outcomes Standards Project.

The first part of this process to develop standards for outcome-based measurement was to assemble a working group of industry representatives to layout the initial framework of what such standards might look like.

The first meeting of the initial working group, which included about 75 participants, was held on May 7th. The role of the working group is to advise and assist on this project and it is expected to expand over the coming months.

This cross-industry effort will seek to establish standards for attribution and, ultimately, for data quality, centered on the following areas:

  • Codification of a process for determining the relationships between outcomes and ad exposure, interaction and engagement, and conversions.
  • The provision of guidance on data collection, cleaning, and integration best practices.
  • The establishment of a means to ensure and validate the quality, validity, recency, granularity, and accuracy of data sets relative to their intended uses.

The earliest stages of the new project will see MRC work to collect information on current procedures and best practices in relevant subject areas through interviews, walkthroughs, and literature reviews.

The findings of these steps will be reviewed with the working group in the next meeting, to be held this summer, at which initial thoughts on a first draft document will be discussed, as will the research goals for the remaining phases of the work.

The need to develop standards for what constitutes effective and accurate ad outcome measurement is great.  Today, there are many different providers using a variety of methodologies.

Marketers, by and large, have no real way of assessing whether the approach of the vendor they have chosen is an effective method for giving a real read on outcome for the specific KPIs they are focusing on. Nor do they have a reliable way of assessing whether the data being used for such assessment is of high quality, sufficiently transparent or even the right dataset to use.

By bringing the industry together to identify what is needed in outcome measurement and the approaches that need to be adhered to in order to ensure quality and accuracy, the still emerging field of attribution can be provided with structure and guardrails to help ensure that when advertisers look to assess outcome, they get an accurate read for their needs.

Our work here has just begun. In order for the standards we ultimately issue for industry review and comment to be of value, we need the participation and contribution of all the key stakeholders. 

We encourage you to join the MRC in this work, and contribute your research and point of view to this effort.

Outcome-based measurement is one of the most important areas of advertising today.  In order for it to serve the industry as intended, we need providers to comply with standards that the industry has jointly agreed upon.

If you want to lend your voice to the effort, now is the time to let the MRC know.

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