While the title of the piece last week was meant to simply be a play off The Atlantic's piece, I feel as though some people focused too much on it rather than the real question marketers and agencies should be asking themselves: Has an overreliance on performance metrics hand-cuffed marketers and agencies online in areas of marketing outside of direct response -- specifically, branding and marketing of products for which there is no online purchase?
There is a lot more to be gained online for those marketers that define their campaign goals beyond the standard set of performance metrics. Google has forever changed the face of marketing, and to neglect its use as a key tool in your marketing efforts is absurd. But, looking at the marketing objectives for you brand, how may of them can be measured in clicks? There is a place where metrics meet ideas -- and art meets science -- where online is most effective. The key is that the metrics are only half the story, and you have to be sure you are looking at the right metrics, not just the metrics that are available.
The other half of the story, which seems so neglected in today's Excel-based RFP (The title of the piece could just as easily have been "Is Excel Making Marketers Stupid?") is the idea. It's extremely important for metrics to feed agencies ideas, rather than making your agency a slave to metrics.
I commonly make the argument that the Internet ecosystem breaks down because the metrics that marketers demand from Internet publishers are not a true measure of value and can be manufactured to a point, such as clicks and impressions. The same, it would seem, is true for the marketer/agency ecosystem with regards to digital. Marketers hold agencies accountable, and in many cases agencies hold themselves to metrics that are not a true measure of campaign effectiveness. Then the metrics are achieved, but do not translate into sales/impact -- and no one is happy.
The question "Is Google Making Marketers Stupid?" has nothing to do with whether or not you should use Google (of course you should); the question has to do with asking yourself if you are limiting your efforts by defining your marketing's success by what Google can measure. Why not start with what you would like to measure (no, we can't yet tie everything back to sales). Then be creative and work with your agency to make it happen.