A survey of top marketers, commissioned by Advertising Age with the backing of the US Association of National Advertisers, rates classic media advertising - and in particular network television - as an inadequate means of monitoring return on marketing investment.

Top of the disciplines for proving ROI is direct marketing, with direct mail rated the most accountable medium by over four in ten respondents. Internet marketing was second in the ROI lineup, rooted for by one in five marketers.

The study, presented at last week's ANA Conference, is based on an online survey completed by 222 marketing professionals. The data is claimed to have a confidence level of plus or minus 6.6%.

Best and worst of the media bunch for ROI provability were …

• Direct mail (42%)
• Internet (19%)

Worst (TV):
• Network TV (32%)
• Cable TV (5%)
• Spot TV (3%)
• Syndicated TV (2%)

Worst (non-TV):
• Out-of-home/outdoor (14%)
• Radio (8%)
• Internet (8%)
• Newspapers/magazines (7%)

The concept of advertising ROI appears to be spreading fast, 73% of respondents reporting that advertising and marketing activity at their companies is now as ROI-accountable as other corporate functions. Marketers themselves accept responsibility for such accountability (78%), with few believing the onus to be on agencies or media sellers.

The most common yardstick of ROI is sales growth (76%), with market share also prominent (61%). Increased brand awareness was specified by 55%.

But the hoary debate about accountability versus creativity still rages. A perennial complaint among agencies is that tunnel-vision focus on ROI can cork creativity.

Sixty-four percent of survey respondents disagreed - "strongly" or "somewhat" - with the statement: "Accountability is less important for advertising and marketing because it is as much an art as a science." A mere 19% "strongly agreed".

Seventy percent of marketers agree that "ROI is not a fleeting phenomenon born of economic recession" but a long-term change in how they do business.

As one veteran direct marketer noted: "Finally they agree with the DM pioneers who built business empires solely on that concept for the past hundred years."

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff