Adding Data Science For ROI: Q&A With Mediastruction's Marilois Snowman

The advancement of data science in advertising has been ramping up for years, and is now entering a phase that might just impact our concept of measurement currency, especially when it applies to ROI. That's the theory of Mediastruction’s CEO Marilois Snowman.

According to Snowman, “Mediastruction is a data-led, woman-owned, independent media buying & planning agency. Data science is at the core of our work and at the start of every engagement. Our mission is answering advertising's trickiest ROI questions for mid-size brands.”

She explained her position regarding currency and measurement now and in the future.

Weisler: There is a lot of discussion about measurement and currency. What is the difference between the two?

Snowman: Measurement is the valuation of media inventory. There are multiple ways valuation can be determined: consumer reach; consumer engagement; consumer response; ROI; even supply & demand. Currency occurs when the buy and sell side agree to a common valuation methodology.



For example: Ratings, a reach measurement of TV viewing, was a common currency for both TV buyers and sellers for many years. Today, brands, with pressure from digital media's accountability are beginning to apply different measurement methodologies to TV, creating a disparity between the buy and sell side. This is disrupting currency.

Weisler: What is the disconnect between content providers and agencies?

Snowman: This is a really interesting question. If you mean the disconnect in terms of currency, my POV is that the buy side has multiple methodologies to determine value. But the north star is becoming attribution and return on investment, whereas the content providers (sell side) are measuring value -- in a big way -- based on supply and demand.

I think of it as if travelers evaluated what they were willing to spend on an airline ticket based on trip satisfaction, whereas the airline companies have limited supply, with an expiration date.

Weisler: Are there disconnects between brands?

Snowman: When we talk about measurement and currency between brands, there are absolutely disconnects. Even within brands. Measurement of digital and traditional media is often misaligned. 

This misalignment happens even as publishers are selling their digital and traditional products bundled (look at MVPDs, TV networks, even local spot-market stations). The media strategy and measurement of branding initiatives, even brand tracking efforts, often misalign with sales quotas and the measurement of sales incrementality or digital performance metrics. And, overall, there is no transparency in what any brand is paying in the media marketplace. So we're drowning in data -- and it takes a good data wrangler/data storyteller to sort it out.

Weisler: How can this issue be overcome?

Snowman: There needs to be better online marketplaces for buying and selling inventory.  Marketplaces which combine audiences across digital and traditional touchpoints; marketplaces with better reach calculations; marketplaces with clear inventory limits, representing real-world constraints, to combat bots and fraud. Maybe even fewer, but better marketplaces.

Weisler: What does the future hold for measurement?

Snowman: We are beginning to see a proliferation of measurement options. The proliferation will continue due to advances in cloud computing; API integrations and machine learning. Then, eventually, there will be consolidation. But I don't think we'll go back to having a currency monopoly.

Weisler: Do you think there will be a generally accepted currency? If so, what will it be? If not, how can we compare across campaigns and platforms?

Snowman: Some industry influencers from both buy and sell side are moving to CPM valuation as a step toward a unified currency. For instance, you see radio and TV now being sold on CPMs versus CPPs, so that buyers can bundle terrestrial/linear broadcast with digital. But I'm not sure that's a strategic step in the right direction - only because the measurement methodology for digital and linear/terrestrial is so different.

Besides that, thinking about the movement to a performance/attribution measurement, once you give brands measurement choice, especially around proving value, they won't go back to a one-size-fits-all solution. What brand wants to revert backwards? However, I think an industry-owned marketplace, similar to Nasdaq, would be an interesting way to build transparency and value to both the buy and sell side.


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