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Opinion: If You Can’t Measure it You Can’t Manage it

When it comes to performance marketing campaigns,  the importance of measurement cannot be overstated and it must be baked into all stages of the campaign, writes Conor Murphy.

 Measurement in large part is an afterthought. The strategy is developed, the plan is built, and the campaign is executed. Too often, it is only at this point does the question of measurement arise. That critical but overlooked question, “how is the success of this campaign being measured?”

Business objectives are often considered at planning stage. However, how the campaign is being measured against those is an entirely different matter. This may be an over-simplification and not 100% true, but it is not far wrong either.

However, that must change. To deliver market-leading digital performance, measurement needs to be factored into the overall strategy, at the outset. Successfully determining the success of a campaign comes from seamlessly integrating your measurement approach within the overall strategy.

Measurement and strategy cannot be seen as two different things. In today’s word they are one of the same. Nothing should go into the strategy that hasn’t been considered from a measurement perspective.

This is now more important than ever. Digital has reached a tipping point. Where conventional thinking around measurement is being turned on its head as shifts in market dynamics are making it more difficult to measure the success of campaigns. It is being driven in large part by the proliferation of ecommerce channels and formats that are now available. Advertisers are being presented with an abundance of opportunities to grow revenue as they can now in effect serve both long – and short-term marketing and sales objectives in the same place.

This is great. Brands have many more opportunities to connect with their consumers and grow their revenue. However, it is not without its challenges. Advertisers are quite rightly cognisant of increasing consumer demands regarding privacy, and together with the impact of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), ATT (App Tracking Transparency), cookie deprecation and the EU ePrivacy Directive, it is undoubtedly more challenging to measure the full impact of advertising across the funnel.

There is not a shortage of data. In fact, it is the opposite. The vast array of touchpoints available results in an abundance of data. The challenge is that the data often sits in different places, not joined up and with large parts not useable because the right levels of consent aren’t there.

Therefore, it can no longer be assumed that the success of the campaign can be measured after the fact. It requires a measurement first approach resulting in a reframing of how measurement is thought of. There are three areas for immediate consideration.

Growth happens at multiple level, so should measurement

Increasingly, advertisers are keen to explore full funnel measurement. The unfortunate reality is that there is no silver bullet solution. It is too complex. As such, it is imperative to think about growth across multiple levels, from the micro to the macro but always pointed in the same direction.

What this means in practical terms is leveraging the likes of in-platform measurement and attribution, combined with A/B experiments to assess performance against short-term objectives like leads, conversions, and sales.

For long term growth, it is worth considering things such as surveys to assess movements in critical brand measures, or econometrics or digital MMM (media mix modelling) for long-term budgetary decisions.

This approach to measurement requires a holistic view of objectives across the funnel, supported by a measurement framework that facilitates continual testing, learning, and optimising towards both the short – and long-term growth opportunities. In framing it this way, it will not only deliver better, more layered performance marketing solutions, but also more accurate and reflective measurement opportunities as well.

Measurement first planning

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the relationship between the digital plan and measurement. The current approach of measuring a plan that has been developed needs to change to developing a plan with measurement in mind. A subtle but important distinction.

It means making sure that everything that goes on the plan can be measured to understand its impact. Whether a particular tactic has worked or not, it is important to at the very least understand what’s happened and why.

That means the perhaps un-exciting things, like naming conventions and tagging, are critically important. These things need to be considered as the strategy and plan is being developed, and not after the fact. If it can’t be measured, there’s no point in doing it!

Similarly at this juncture, it is important to reflect on how the results of the activity will be presented on a weekly and monthly basis. The report needs to be structured around the strategy and corresponding objectives, accounting for both the micro and macro growth opportunities, while ensuring meaningful insight can be captured to improve future performance.

To help with this, it is important that all parties, advertiser and agency, are operating with the same data in the same platform. There are plenty of low-cost platforms out there, that’s not necessarily the challenge. Rather the focus should be on making sure the report is universally accessible and adopted across teams and it is designed in a way that unlocks its true power.

Consider new measures of success

There’s an opportunity today to think beyond the obvious measures of success. To consider the impact of new test opportunities, most notably on incrementality. In fact, incrementality should be at the heart of any progressive measurement strategy, where advertisers can really understand the impact of their digital media activity. It requires moving away from solely looking at cost per acquisition to cost per incremental acquisition.

For many companies, cost per acquisition is one of the important short-term measures of success. However, it is in fact purely measuring an association. In simple terms, it is measuring those who received an ad and happened to convert. It falls short of measuring the true impact of the advertising. It’s more accurate to look at the cost per incremental acquisition, which is those consumers that bought because they saw the ad. A very different measure of success.

Building incrementality testing into an advertiser’s measurement framework will help determine which audiences, tactics, creative, etc. are performing better at bringing in new revenue that wouldn’t have happened away. But this only works if it gets the right level of consideration at the planning stage before the campaign goes live.

Just by taking the opportunity to step back and consider a measurement first approach can open new avenues to create and capture growth. Measurement is no longer the thing that’s done after the fact to determine the success or otherwise of an advertiser’s digital activity. It now needs to be thought of as the lifeblood of performance campaigns and as such needs to be stitched into every aspect of the planning and buying of a campaign.

Conor Murphy is  Managing Director, Performance Marketing, Core