How can we rebuild trust in digital media measurement?

8th Nov 2016

Facebook recently revealed that it had overestimated how much video its users have watched for the last two years. The news has put the spotlight on transparency in digital media again and raised huge questions about the accuracy of measurement in the industry.

Many agencies have been calling on Facebook and other adtech players to face up to third-party measurement. At the moment, these walled gardens breed a conflict of interest, as well as a lack of trust in their inherent reliance on in-house performance measurement.

Where does the problem stem from?

In addition to the frustration of paying against inaccurate metrics, marketers are still wondering why it’s so difficult to gain clarity around their digital ad performance.

Measurement inaccuracies aren’t something that brands should be concerned about when it comes to their campaign. Yet, the problem exists because of the fundamental conflict of interest that comes with buying media space from a provider that has its own properties and also sells content across other sites. In other words, the company is more likely to bias their own inventory.

Additionally, using a programmatic or retargeting platform that buys its own media and then resells it, can mean the advertisers who are buying the space have no control for the price paid on any given impression. The byproduct of this situation is distrust between advertisers and digital media publishers.

Combatting skepticism

Marketers are used to less precise measurement from TV broadcasters, but the ability to track customer intent and behaviour in digital means that brands expect to be able to measure more accurately through digital. The revelation about Facebook only fuels advertisers and media agencies skepticism around the transparency and clarity of digital measurement.

Still, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of these platforms. Gone are the days when millennials pick up a print newspaper, instead they look to their Facebook feed, Twitter or Instagram for the latest news.

The human aspect of media buying

Online advertising is traded in a variety of ways from the basic cost per click or cost per action to systems that serve different messages to customer segments based on their browsing history, a purchase they have made or an ad they might have clicked on. As advertising technology continues to evolve, it is also growing its ability to account for offline or other online factors that might have had an influence on a person’s decision to express interest in a brand.

Opting for siloed channel buying solutions, one for video, another for display and social for example, provokes disjointed targeting. Potential customers may view the same ad across multiple touch points and this irrelevant messaging can damage customer relationships. People don’t want to see an ad for something they have already purchased, or have already seen too many times.

That’s why media buying today needs to look more like equities trading. The complexity of the digital landscape, which includes ever-multiplying formats, customer journeys that span multiple devices, and online and offline touch points, means that there is huge variety in the way audiences are engaging with media. To reach this elusive modern audience, hypotheses need to be created and tested. Leave the testing to the machines, but don’t underestimate the need of humans -- and human judgment and emotion -- when it comes to creating hypotheses.

By understanding and embracing the need for both humans and machines in the digital advertising ecosystem, media buyers are inventing the future for agencies. Connecting first and third party data to decide which impression to buy and how much to pay, across the entire digital media landscape, is a much more sophisticated and effective way of buying media space. This gives brands and their agencies a way to take all of their available data and put it to use to ensure that people see messages that are relevant, whilst being confident in measuring results.

The question of distrust in marketing measurement means that the industry has to get better at it. While the internet has enabled brands and agencies to deliver personalised campaigns across multiple digital sites, the ability to extract accurate metrics is crucial. By mixing human insight with performance data, the advertising industry can break down the barriers of distrust that currently exist in digital marketing measurement.



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