Investment in advertising continues to grow, but investment in measurement is lagging. Dan Hagen, Global Chief Strategy Officer, iProspect, considers how we fix this.

As someone who has tried to tread the line between mass marketing and personalised marketing for the past 20+ years, I’m always struck by the sensationalism of the arguments.  It feels like people are striving more for column inches than to solve the problem – I’m boring, because I sit on the fence and strive for balance.  How very Zen.

I therefore read, with great interest, an Ebiquity report that is forecasting that TV will lose its ROI advantage sometime over the next 3 years.  This is almost as momentous as Thinkbox expressing some nervousness over TV’s future. I’m not here to undermine TV, I’m more intrigued by the source of the report. 

A pain point of mine is when a big tech platform forecasts TV’s demise, the same way when TV platforms lambast digital players; everyone’s vested in their own point of view, and we should be focussed on the outcomes of what we do for brands and for people.  So, when Ebiquity starts talking about TV losing ROI advantages we should be listening and doing something.

What to do?  Start pulling money out of TV and dumping it into digital?  We’ve already done that once, for most of the brands that over reacted before it didn’t work so well and they had to retrench back to “traditional” and approach the digital world more carefully.

After all mass marketing, and TV specifically, do amazing things for brands, particularly over long periods of time, for both low consideration and high consideration purchases.  That repeated awareness and salience hard-codes brand attachment that may surface years later when you actually enter the market for a new car, or when you’re cruising the aisles (virtual or physical) of your supermarket filling your basket.

There’s also the power of shared experiences, and the knowledge of shared experiences, that affirms the brand choices we all make, and then subsequently talk about.  After all there’s no point in buying a luxury brand if other people (who may never buy it) don’t also know how cool your BMW, Rolex, or Gucci Bag are.

But, we can’t ignore the numbers.  55% fewer 16-17 year olds are watching TV versus 2013, and viewership is down 33 to 50 per cent across all subsets of the 16-34s.  Whilst changes are strongest across those demographics, all audiences are moving away from linear TV.  This is making it harder to reach those big numbers, which is a key driver of TV’s currently strong ROI. 

Where are all those eyeballs going?  They’re going to digital, in a lot of different ways – if you want to know where, turn on screentime on your and your kids’ and friends’ devices, give it a few weeks and have a look at the reports – I guarantee you’ll be surprised – at how much time and on what, and interestingly, which bits are actually ad supported.

In short, they’re paying less attention to you, Mrs Brand.  Lots of it is video, podcasts, social platforms, mobile games, digital audio, and yes, some of this is very much still happening on the big screen, but they also have a little screen in their hands at the same time, and a fair old chunk of this isn’t ad supported.  And it’s messy: lots of platforms, lots of options – it’s no wonder Google and Facebook have captured so much spend – aside from their huge users bases, they offer a simple two-shop stop option.

This has changed how whole industries operate.  The UK Travel industry is essentially an online industry with 84% of bookings happening online (Mintel), and an even greater proportion involving a multitude of online channels right across the journey from dreaming, to planning, to booking.  A Forrester report shows 53% of total US retail sales are researched online and purchased in store.  Digital is a vital component of human behaviour.

Ok, here’s my suggestion. Find the balance. There’s lots of academic research that gives you some guidance: Long and Short of it, Marketing in the Digital Age.  Overall, the authors, Les Binet and Peter Field, suggest balance is overwhelmingly the way to go. A healthy investment in your brand to create demand and a healthy investment in converting people to your products to harvest that demand. 

And here’s my challenge to the industry. 

Invest in your balance.

You’re going to have to invest in measurement to find and optimise against your balance.

I’ve had to go to a few data sources to get some estimates here, and the picture is pretty stark:

  • eMarketer reports that globally, $628bn is spent on advertising
  • Forrester suggests that about $1-$1.2bn is spent on measurement of advertising (attribution, mix modelling, or unified measurement methodologies).

That’s about 0.2% of spend on measuring if that spend did something positive for the brand and business in question. Into that context, Forbes reports that marketers that spend 10% of their marketing budget on measurement are 3 times more likely to hit or beat their sales targets. Wow.

So, there’s a simple solution, double (or x10) your investment in measurement, analytics and modelling.  We can probably drop our reach by 1% or frequency by 0.1 to afford it.

But I’m not sure that will actually do the job.  Doing brand tracking and performance tracking with some econometrics and attribution thrown in is a great start, but I think creating a culture of measurement, accountability and learning in our teams is the real winner.

Everything needs to start with, “What are we trying to learn?” and “How are we going to apply those learnings at scale?”

Get the performance data in front of the brand teams, get the brand tracking in front of the performance teams and give them investment to crunch that data together to understand both and how they affect each other.  It’s time to think data over dogma.