The fundamental challenge …

I was in a meeting on Friday and a client said to me something along the lines of …

We’re not confident nor aware of whether the result from spending $x thousand on online would create a better outcome for us than spending the same amount of $x thousand on media we’re currently using

So – effectively there’s no dispute/doubt from marketers that online can work … the real curiosity is that is a more effective use of investment than other media. Will $x in digital create better results than $x on TV? Or $x in press? Or $x on outdoor?

There’s no straight answer. In some circumstances digital would create a better result. In others, probably not.

I think if you look at this you can generate 3 key takeouts

1/ There is no question from anyone the role and benefits of search. However marketers generally focus on demand creation, not fulfillment so the doubt revolves around display advertising

2/ Measurement surely plays a role in creating this doubt. Our currency of UB’s and PI’s and clicks doesn’t speak the language of marketers. These are figures developed to help open doors and claim we had the same scale as other media … right now they’re not serving the interests of anyone. (good article here, thanks Wendy Hogan –

3/ There are questions around the impact of current display units and whether they can move beyond an opportunity to see to a real impact with the user.

With that in mind, perhaps the approach should move from disputing the effectiveness of other media (arguing that no one watches TV, arguing that TV ads aren’t effective, press is dying, outdoor is ineffective) and starting to celebrate and evolve the benefits of digital. Maybe instead of saying everything else is broken, we can focus on fixing what needs to be fixed closer to home.


12 responses to “The fundamental challenge …

  1. Great points, Ben. Reflecting on the same feelings at the moment.

  2. I wouldn’t agree that digital is ‘broken’.

    We can adopt similar measurements to TV…


    -we can create brand studies in the place of brand/ad tracking

    -we can measure UB’s and the % reach into our target online audience in the place of TARPs

    -more importantly, we can directly measure clicks, interactions and sales working it back to a solid CPA…

    So what’s broken?

    I think the key is to understand what a clients individual metric of success is when they are looking at TV, Press, OOH etc and work that back to a similar metric for online…

    Ultimately digital and traditional cannot and should not be benchmarked against each other and it will be an education process for traditional planners and digital planners alike to understand and appreciate each others differences…

    But digital cannot be described as ‘broken’ just because you can’t match it directly to traditional channel metrics…

  3. talkingdigital

    not saying it’s broken at all – it’s just some of the metrics are if they’re not satisfying the needs of marketers.

  4. But if we define the ‘needs’ of marketers, are we referring to the need to equally benchmark digital against traditional channels and to judge the effectiveness of each channel based on the previous metrics of reach, response and frequency?

    If so, i’m not sure that advertisers are looking at digital channel in the right way.

    Digital is unlike any medium that has come before it, therefore objectives need to be different.

    I wrote a post about it last week – i’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it:

  5. Not sure the metrics are to blame. Isn’t it a bit like saying the metric system is broken because Americans can’t figure it out?

  6. talkingdigital

    Don’t agree Eric – the metrics are broken (in my opinion) because they don’t address the questions that need answering.

    UBs/Clicks etc are metrics that don’t mean much.

    We need to stop giving advertisers reports full of measurements that don’t answer the question of ‘did my activity work’ … we’re great at cutting data, not so good at honestly analysing it.

  7. Hmmm…. but if the metrics your really want are things like uplift in brand awareness or effect on sales how are UB/Clicks any worse/more broken than circulation and readership metrics?

    Are you comparing metrics between media types or really just bemoaning the lack of analysis? (which is coming, slowly, like in the studies that show how much display lifts search campaigns)

  8. One of the problems with talking with marketing people like this is that they are so entrenched in old paradigms they expect digital to deliver equally with other media. Which as we all know, is not even the case. Secondly, digital people keep talking to the language of advertising and ultimately dig themselves into holes. The problem with online advertising is that as Ben raises the old model has been barely subverted. People still talk reach, frequency et al when what need to be talking about and measuring is engagement, sustainability and differentiation. And they still think about the same boxes and breaks as print and television – no wonder marketing people are confused and question effectiveness and response.

  9. talkingdigital

    Eric – For measurement we probably need to stop hiding behind the perceived inadequacies of other tools (for TV, print etc) and develop our own strong ones.

    The conundrum is a marketer (in my experience) generally needs an immediate or close to immediate impact on the quarterly/half yearly marketing/media spend. Unless this can be demonstrated and be shown to be more effective than what they’re currently doing the truth is the dollars won’t migrate. Whilst the social media cheersquad will argue this is archaic and we should be thinking long term dialogue etc … it’s a reality and something we need to work with. If candy company spend an incremental $500k on a channel above and beyond their previous years investment, they expect it will deliver incremental sales/yield to the bottom line.

    The measurement issue isn’t simple and I realise that. It involves lots of different areas and contributing factors to an action. True cross media measurement like what Dynamic Logic can measure is something we should all be looking at. Measurement of digital in isolation isn’t going to work – all it can do is show digital ads work in providing a basic uplift in awareness/association etc … no one has questioned this. The question still remains what is the true optimum mix?

  10. Optimum mix of what? Channels? Metrics?

    I think in your previous point where you said “We need to stop giving advertisers reports full of measurements that don’t answer the question of ‘did my activity work” is the real issue…

    The simple solution to this issue is to agree the objectives prior to the activity (whether that be increase in brand favourability, online sales, in store walk ins etc) and ensure that your reporting before, during and after the campaign stays true to these objectives…

    There you have your measure of success and both the agency and the client can figure out whether their activity worked or not…

  11. talkingdigital

    zoe i’ll flick over a deck from DL that explains what i’m trying to say better than i can. it looks at duplication, strengths of each media etc.

    my main point remains – marketers have a certain currency and it’s rich of the wider digital world to expect them to change this and embrace a new form of measurement. it’s rich enough many sell their own services by shitcanning more traditional approaches.

  12. Brand adverts online arent trying to get click throughs.

    But poor creative is poor creative as well.

    So you could spend $XX on line and piss it in the wind if if wasn’t executed well and to the target market.

    But that goes all media.

    Digital may not suit that client, and they may get great results and if they are happy they should stick with it,, but sounds like they aren;t convinced where they should be spending and getting value.

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