Wake Up Call: Stop Wasting Time on Yesterday’s Metrics

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Have you ever woken up with a startling realization that you’re wrong about something very important?  Somehow while you were asleep your brain connected two points in a way that you somehow missed while awake, yet your mindset is nonetheless permanently altered.  As jarring as this experience can be, our industry needs to have one of these mornings – and very soon.

We need to wake up from our uniformity pipe dreams and recognize that the industry debate around viewability and ad standards is a waste of time – an outdated distraction resulting in misalignment of priorities and resources. It’s been disrupted. See, I told you it would be a rough morning.

Oh, how quickly we’ve forgotten that uniformity is not our friend.  A decade ago, we were so successful in creating ad standards that “banner blindness” was decried as a full-blown epidemic by 2007.  In other words, digital advertising was so predictable and so misaligned with our audience that it became virtually invisible, while creating a new kind of blindness scary enough to merit a longer Wikipedia entry than many legitimate diseases.

Then all hell broke loose.  Google’s rapid rise, the proliferation of smartphones and the success of early feed-based platforms like Facebook, Buzzfeed and Twitter set us on the path of industry disruption and audience fragmentation that continues to this day. While today’s challenges may leave us occasionally nostalgic for the simpler days of “banner blindness,” we, as marketers and advertisers, must resist the urge to bludgeon the industry back to the standards of the past.  It won’t work.

We all know that adults 18 to 34 years of age are consuming more than half their content digitally, and that number is only increasing. YouTube and Facebook are today’s TV and print. And no one is pushing to apply print viewing standards to TV.

As agencies, and the spark agents of this industry, we need to finally wake up and embrace the opportunity to turn industry disruption into an advantage for brands – our clients.  But how do we do this?

We need to generate business outcomes.  We must hold our media buying, measurement and optimization strategies accountable to driving business outcomes, as opposed to outdated proxies like views and impressions.

Alok Gupta, Airbnb’s data science manager, recently said he found that marketers that poured their time on how digital impressions should be defined and what pricing models the industry should adopt for viewable ads was a distraction. In fact, he challenged marketers to “make a mentality shift” toward “purely outcome based’ advertising. This was a strong a wake-up call indeed from a brand on the leading edge of disruption in their own industry.

To look beyond metrics and towards business outcomes that tame the complexity of today’s media marketplace, utilize the following best practices:

  1. Don’t Settle:  No ecommerce site? No problem.  While direct real-time attribution of sales to media may not be your reality, that doesn’t mean you need to stop your media measurement at views and reach.  Start at your point of purchase and work backwards.  With the unprecedented abundance of data and attribution solutions available today, I promise you will find a measurable outcome much more indicative of your business objectives.
  2. Invest Your Time Where it Matters:  What’s your optimal video length on Facebook for driving outcomes?  Do auto-play views impact sales?  How much do views without sound impact conversion rate?  I would much rather bring my client answers to these questions about their video campaign versus the news that I’ve negotiated higher guaranteed viewability.
  3. Embrace Complexity:  In any marketplace, the participants with the best data have the greatest opportunity to extract value.  As market complexity increases, data becomes more important and therefore a bigger advantage to those who have it.  Instead of trying to standardize the market, embrace the opportunity to build a significant advantage through data.

In closing, there is no brand too large nor product too complex where media can’t be measured to business outcomes. Once in place, optimization toward outcomes is the single most effective way to tame complexity and gain advantage.  If someone tells you otherwise, ask them to please go back to sleep.

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