While some say online is the easiest platform to measure, others are adamant that more needs to be done to see how powerful it is.
Putting together a digital strategy can be overwhelming for marketers who now have more metrics and analytical tools at their disposal than ever before.
“You have dozens of different views of the same data. They’re all visualised and mapped out in a different way. It becomes quite challenging to interpret it in the right way for clients and for clients to understand what the data represents,” says Mike Wronski, the managing director of online media monitoring company, Fuseware.
Connecting the dots in ways that make sense is the biggest challenge facing digital marketers today, says Wronski.
But the good news is that digital marketing offers advertisers two things that other media doesn’t. The first is a goldmine of data that can be used to plan campaigns that are perfectly tailored for consumers based on a person’s specific preferences. It’s not only about brands knowing who their consumers are anymore. It’s now also about understanding where these consumers are, what they want, how they want to interact with the brand and, most importantly, why they choose to engage with some brands and not others.
Big data is fast becoming a new marketing currency that can make those who mine the unfathomable amounts of information out there rich in consumer insights.
The second one-up for digital marketing is that it offers analytical tools that measure the effectiveness of a campaign with unmatched precision.
This, says Matthew Brown, a senior strategist at multi award-winning digital agency Gloo, allows marketers to pick and choose the marketing analytics that are relevant to a brand’s objectives.
“It comes down to the brand because every business is different. Some will always track the click-through rate from an advertising campaign, like a banner. But some may track cost per thousand (CPM) impressions, depending on how they are actually buying the media,” says Brown.
Click-through rate measures the number of users that click on a specific link, while CPM is tracked using on-page tags that retrieve detailed information about a particular page view.
While agencies like Gloo, The SpaceStation and Avatar may have embraced the opportunities that this kind of data offers, most traditional agencies still rely solely on the tried and tested media research toolbox comprising surveys and focus groups.
What is holding traditional agencies back is their inability to track the elusive return on investment (ROI) for online media. They are accustomed to measuring ROI by using metrics like reach (how many people see a medium) and frequency (how many times those people saw the medium) to gauge the delivery of a campaign.
At this point, Effective Measure, the official traffic measurement partner of the Interactive Advertising Bureau South Africa (IAB SA), can only measure unique browsers, a misleading metric because it measures the device through which a person interacts with a website or a network, and not people.
This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, a person accessing a website from their desktop at work, their smartphone while in a queue later at the supermarket, and from their home personal computer in the evening will be counted three times because they are using three different devices. On the flipside, a desktop at home, for example, can be shared by several people, yet they will only be counted as one unique browser because they are all using the same device.
The question is: if traditional agencies can’t measure ROI the way they usually do, can they adapt by adding new-generation tools and practices to their toolbox?
Byron John, Habari Media’s director of innovations and insights, thinks so. He has developed a data insights tool called Storyteller, which is based on the All Media and Products Survey (Amps) industry standard, but uses only the relevant sections from the data to paint a picture of consumers.
John says that Storyteller uses Effective Measure data in a new way by taking digital metrics, like time, page views, frequency, unique browsers etcetera, and converting them back into traditional agency metrics like reach, frequency and impact. It is a single scoring system then measures the percentage reach of the audience.
“Storyteller was developed in response to the fact that it is so difficult to put a digital plan together. Effective Measure’s data is cumbersome and not a planning tool. It is merely a snapshot of a brand,” says John.
Another ground-breaking development has been the IAB SA’s announcement last year that Effective Measure data will now be integrated into media planning tool Telmar.
Effective Measure data, which is delivered monthly, will be weighted by age, sex and region to the Amps population. The data is then re-weighted according to the internet population, as determined by a formula devised by the IAB SA in collaboration with research firm Echo Consultancy.
“The whole philosophy is that we’re moving from one P, which is paper, to four Ps: paper, pads, PCs and phones,” says Peter Langschmidt, the CEO of Echo Consultancy. “Audiences are staying the same. In fact, they’ve grown. News is always going to be news. Audiences are just changing from reading it on paper, to reading it on their phones and that’s more complex to measure.”
Considered the ‘poor cousin’ in media, digital presently receives a tiny sliver of the ad spend pie, a figure estimated to be roughly around 5%. Langschmidt says that this is “ridiculous” and that finding an industry standard for digital audience measurement will go a long way to ensure that the medium gets a portion of ad spend money that is more relative to its consumption time. This is because traditional agencies will no longer plan campaigns in silos if they have a common currency for all mediums.
“Digital needs to fit into the world of media and measurement. It can’t have its own rules. If it’s going to become a major player, and start growing like it has in the UK and the US, it has to have conventional metrics,” says Langschmidt.
“It’s the fastest-growing medium in history but it’s too far behind where it should be. It’s taking off, but it’s taking off too slowly because it hasn’t got its house in order correctly.”
This story was first published in the July 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.