The last 20 years or so have been spent making the case that digital media is great at building a brand and driving demand because of the inherent accountability it presents. Digital media has hung its hat on understanding audiences, tracking engagement -- and attributing value to both. Measurement, attribution, optimization have been the core tenets of the web. The future of these is somewhat in doubt for the open web, even if not for walled gardens.
I have always stated that attribution is like wizardry, but in fact you had to have an almost religious view of it. You believe in it, you have faith in it, and you choose one that guides the way you make decisions.
The challenge is that attribution was always driving a path toward cross-media attribution. With the demise of the cookie, I don’t think that will be possible. Even more important, digital media has become the cornerstone of all media, representing the highest spend and the highest volume of both impressions and engagement, and in the future it will be only slightly more reliable in terms of measurement than other forms of media like TV and outdoor. You will know how many impressions you generated and you will have a proxy for engagement, but across channels, impact will be very difficult to accurately and effectively measure.
The question I’m forced to ask: Is that actually bad?
Maybe we simply need to take a step backward for a moment when we look at digital media. Is it possible we can shift some of our attention to creating better use of the space itself rather than measuring the latent effects of the exposure? Maybe we should focus on how the message is delivered across channels and the story they tell, rather than trying to attribute value to one touch or the next. Maybe we should be looking at a higher-level of analysis that is based on a return-on-ad-spend and media mix rather than the channel-by-channel attribution models that we have been trying so desperately to shoehorn into the mix the last 10 years.
A great brand campaign drives more search. A great TV spot will drive website traffic. A great outdoor campaign can challenge perceptions and support other channels. The tactic-by-tactic measurement model tries to say that one touch is more valuable than the next, but maybe it’s the mix we should be focused on.
Media mix modeling feels like a lost art and one that should be resurrected in a cookie-deprived world. Examining the full spend, across all channels, and the resultant impact -- on top of funnel metrics such as overall engagement, traffic as well as downstream metrics like pipeline and leads -- feels better in a world where we no longer rely on a cookie. MAIDs and other “interstitial” metrics may still apply to some extent, but even those are fluid and suspect because of the moves of Apple and Google.
You can identify the trends over time, recognizing the latency effect, and then hypothesize the leading indicators where you can optimize a campaign. That optimization can happen whether you are focused on brand or demand metrics.
In my early career, we relied heavily on media mix modeling because digital metrics were not yet mature enough to trust. Most of the traditional marketers did not believe in them yet, so we always brought in media mix to the conversation to legitimize spend.
These days the tables have turned and the majority of spend is digital in nature, but we can still use MM to justify and rationalize the spend. In no situation does MM lean towards a silo’d effect, meaning it never says “go 100% digital.” But it does help a brand understand why the spend should be what it is, and it creates measurement that supports how dollars are allocated to meet business needs.
Are you invested in media mix modeling to help you understand how to best reach your target?