The Joint Chief Strategy Officer of EssenseMediacom UK discusses the wide range of metrics agencies must consider for successful business outcomes, and how attention is integral to the success of direct mail.
Read the whitepaper 'The attention advantage: Exploring the impact of mail in an attention-scarce world' here.
Which metrics are agencies focusing on right now when constructing media plans?
They depend on the objectives of the campaign. Every campaign has different objectives and every client looks at different things. Broadly, the metrics that we are briefed on and which we consider fall into different parts of the funnel. We may have top-of-funnel objectives, such as to drive ‘awareness’, ‘brand love’ or shift some kind of image statement. Or the objectives may be mid-funnel metrics such as consideration or overcoming a specific rational or emotional barriers to purchase. And then there are lower funnel objectives such as sales, site visits or conversions.
There are performance metrics and then there are media metrics that we use to lead up to the former. We start with the intended outcome and work backwards to what we think are the media to fulfill consumer outcomes that meet the business outcome. From there, we set a series of media objectives that do that the best. These include things like ‘reach’ for top-of-the-funnel objectives.
In terms of the lower funnel, we look at a wide range of things including viewability, attention, clicks and cost per click. These are ROI metrics. In summary, it’s a wide range of metrics which are bespoke to the specific brief.
Talking about attention and viewability, there's been growing research into ‘attention’ as a better predictor of commercial outcomes and opportunities. How are you finding attention appearing in media planning processes?
Different agencies have different ways of viewing the world. It seemed to us that some of the agency groups and suppliers are focusing very heavily on attention. Our position is that attention is an important measure but just one of several that we take into account. We're looking for outcomes, and the role attention plays is slightly different depending on the objective in the first place.
If you have an objective around a rational mid-funnel barrier, for example, then I think attention is very important and something we’d look at. For example If you have specific product barriers, or you need to overcome price perceptions or confusion about product offerings. For higher consideration categories, attention becomes important because people may be looking for specific information. However, for top-of-the-funnel objectives such as awareness and more emotional mid-funnel metrics, the role for attention becomes more complex.
Unengaged attention can be just as important as active attention. That's one of the reasons why the media environment or distinctive assets help brands ‘pop through’ in a lower-attention environment.
How would you define “meaningful attention”? And how would you use it to evaluate certain channel choices?
‘Meaningful attention’ isn't a term that we have often used, but I value the concept. From our view of the world, what would count as ‘meaningful’ would depend on what the objectives were in the first place. If you have an objective where you need to get across specific product information, where you need people to properly take in your message, you must consider the quality of the attention, how much attention people are paying and the duration of the attention as well. For more complex messages, you may want to look at channels that are better at delivering sustained attention.
Thinking of attention, what are Direct Mail’s particular strengths or weaknesses relative to other channels?
There are a couple of sub-points within this subject. In terms of the strengths, there is the ability to match channels and creative messaging to attract attention. Even if a channel has a great ability to engage attention but doesn’t attract your attention, the best crafted or the most beautifully written piece of Direct Mail or print ad will be wasted. The quality of the messaging’s ability to attract attention is reduced with poor design or poor placement. You can do a brilliant job with Direct Mail if there is great copywriting or a beautiful or eye-catching design to go with it.
Direct Mail creates an environment that has the potential to deliver more sustained attention to a message than any other channel. I think the challenge that Direct Mail has, lies in attracting enough attention that a person picks up a mail piece and opens it, instead of putting it in the bin. That's a creative challenge as much as a medium one. Once the mail has been picked up and read, then we know it can really deliver. The challenge lies in how many people it attracts.
You mentioned earlier about the different stages of the purchase funnel or customer journey. How might Direct Mail complement other channels particularly well as brands look to be effective at those different stages?
Direct Mail can definitely form a strong role in mid and lower funnel objectives. Higher up the funnel, many still look for more traditional broadcast reach channels that people come across more naturally day-to-day – for example, TV and Out of Home. Whereas I think Direct Mail can come into its own more when you're trying to change perceptions. Think of those instances where we're trying to overcome barriers in the middle of the funnel or to convert to a sale at the lower end of the funnel.