Good luck getting through an article or conference on digital media without the assembled masses crying, "How are we going to measure it?" While budgets continue to pour into online media, metrics need to expand to assess the true impact.
Here are some left brain-right brain ideas from an analytics director and a creative director on what works and what is needed in digital metrics. A buy is something we view as a major opportunity. A hold has promise, but needs more evaluation. A sell just doesn't add up.
We know people like to watch, but for how long?
Dan Berra: The Holy Grail goal is getting to measures that demonstrate how people engage with brands. We need an accepted standard for quantifying the time people invest, especially in digital channels.
Jay Suhr: The true impact of advertising is often invisible. Product successes are documented. Catchphrases like Budweiser's "Whassup?" become part of the language. Even songs in popular TV commercials see increases in downloads, as happened when Feist's "1234" was an iPod Nano spot. But there's more happening. We're watching people invest as much as 15 minutes creating content for brand sites we've built. There is enormous value in that.
DB: There's a lot of talk about engagement metrics, but no one has cracked the code. In the absence of standards, it's easy for people to fall back to just looking at clicks. What we're doing is creating our own engagement metrics based on client objectives. We track time spent on the site or with the ad unit. We look at actions, meaning the number of things done - such as pages viewed, items rolled over and videos watched. We also look at the percentage of abandonment without action. From there, we weight those factors that are most important to the site or the client. It's a framework that we keep learning from and plan to continually expand on.
Transactional marketing has been around forever, and it still matters, but there's more to consider now.
DB: Without the old guard of clicks, calls and views, the new frontier of engagement tracking would not be possible. We now need to make these measures a component of the overall engagement metric - instead of the end-all-be-all metric. We are in the process of applying this thinking to measuring our campaigns.
JS: Our creative department is wired in to how our campaigns are performing, but we do want impact measured beyond clicks. Clicks are critical to some campaigns, but when users are higher up in the funnel - getting to know a brand and gathering information - deeper tools are needed.
Media does not exist in a vacuum, so why measure it that way?
JS: We do a lot of digital work, and firmly believe that digital campaigns play a huge role in shifting brand perception measures. It's narrow-minded to make brand measurement just the province of traditional awareness media or to confine digital to the transactional space. We are missing the potential of using digital media to tell brand stories.
DB: Marketing integration needs to carry through to the analytics. We ought to keep an eye on the overall picture and how each campaign is influencing and driving performance both independently and within other media placements. There are critical relationships between what's running in traditional media and what's happening in display and search. Measurement needs to look at brand impact as well as interaction and clicks.
JS: What marketers need to recognize is that the speed of change in the digital space will be constant. The role of digital marketing has morphed five different times in the last five years. Measurement is playing catch-up, working to apply the same kind of time-tested standards that have shaped metrics for traditional advertising and direct mail. We don't have decades or even years to perfect our models. We'll have to learn as we go, or as one of our creative directors says, "Fix the airplane engine while we're in the air."
Dan Berra is vice president of the customer insights group, and Jay Suhr is senior vice president, director of creative services and account planning at T3. (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)