Measuring The Wrong Things

A version of this post appeared in The Media Leader on 12th September.

The media and advertising world is measuring the wrong things.

And – we may be measuring some of the right things whilst fooling ourselves that what we’re measuring means something it doesn’t.

Take a metric like online clicks. On the surface this is a useful number. If someone clicks on something that surely suggests they’re interested in the thing they’ve clicked, they’ve considered it, decided they want to know more about it, so they’ve clicked.

Except we all know there is more to it. Bots click; people click by mistake; fingers slip; the layout of the page is designed to entrap you into clicking on the wrong thing. And so on.

Yet the myth persists. Ask any Editor. Why run fake, sensationalist headlines? Why the listicles? Because of the number of clicks. And clicks, even fake ones, mean prizes, or at any rate ad revenue.

But why? If a large proportion of clicks are fake, why do advertisers persist in believing the metric means anything?

Take a legacy measure; reach. The percentage of people seeing an ad, right? Except that isn’t what’s measured. At best we’re measuring the opportunity to see an ad, whilst in the USA we don’t even get that close given the focus is on measuring the viewing to the programme and not the ad.

It’s taken a new measurement business, Amplified Intelligence to demonstrate that just maybe reach isn’t what people think it is.

To many consumers, ‘advertising’ means any brand communication. It’s all ‘advertising’.

But most measurement conversations ignore those communication channels the industry doesn’t consider to be ‘advertising’.

Things like in-store displays, delivery vehicles, shop-fronts, events, influencers, word-of-mouth. Most of these are from a measurement perspective routinely ignored.

I worked for many years on the Coca-Cola account. Coke had for decades bought the famous illuminated roundel site on Piccadilly Circus. It must have been at least 25 years ago that we were asked to estimate that site’s reach, not just the traffic past the site over time but to include the number of times it had featured on postcards, in scenes in movies, on tourist maps, in books and articles.

It was a good question. How else could Coca-Cola calculate the true worth of that site?

We struggled; we would struggle now.

In all the talk of integrated communications we have made little progress when it comes to metrics. Yes, the within-a-single-medium metrics like BARB are subject to constant review and improvement, but this is akin to whistling an aria in a thunderstorm, it’s satisfying and impressive to those close by, but to anyone any distance away it’s not even noticed.

We argue about the little things. We become immersed in the politics of measurement and forget the question we’re trying to answer. We’re quick to believe the ‘because we’ve always done it this way’ argument, even if the world around us has changed.

We talk so much about integrated communications and yet we still use share-of-voice which by definition is neither accurate (given what’s measured and what’s not) nor relevant (given what’s included and what’s not).

In a 2014 HBR paper he co-authored, Keith Weed, ex-CMO at Unilever said: “We believe that the most important marketing metric will soon change from “share of wallet” or “share of voice” to “share of experience.” ‘Soon’ is overdue.

We need to update the narrative to take account of all interactions between brand and consumer. The IPA’s work on owned media, its value and where and how it fits into plans is a great start, but for channels to fly they need the jet fuel of measurement.

It’s an uncomfortable truth that many of the metrics we use have failed to keep pace with the communication world we live in.

Advertisers need to measure every experience the consumer has with their brands. Advertisers and their advisors talk endlessly about integrated communications. It’s about time more measured it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *