The CMO's Guide to Cross-Platform Measurement

More Media Can Be Measured Than Ever Before, but It's an Imperfect Science

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It's a simple request: Explain how a cross-platform media campaign is working. But delivering on it has been a monumental challenge that's never quite been met.

Earlier this year, Association of National Advertisers CEO Bob Liodice issued a Measurement Mandate to address what he and others often describe as a woeful state of insight into marketing effectiveness.

Things may be getting better. Today, measuring a cross-platform campaign still means "a lot of sources of information that don't get combined directly," said ComScore Chief Revenue Officer Manish Bhatia. "Where we are headed is that more and more media can be measured by a single data set, which is always better than making assumptions."

Dissecting best practices

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There's no one answer, but in response to the ANA's call to address the shortcomings of measurement, industry players including the Advertising Research Foundation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Media Rating Council and Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement developed a five-point plan. Those points include using a comparable metric such as gross rating points across media; taking advertising creative quality into account; and doing analytics timed to when decisions are made rather than months or quarters later. The other two points involve sharing and collaboration among competitors to advance the state of the art.

The players

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Many measurement and analytics firms are available. But Nielsen's acquisition of Arbitron, a media and marketing research firm, paired with the divestiture and licensing of certain Arbitron assets to ComScore, means most solutions that seek to present a full picture, including radio and TV audiences, will have to involve one of those companies. With the acquisition, Nielsen says it can now measure eight hours of media consumption a day per person. ComScore, meanwhile, says the Arbitron assets allow it to address "critical cross-media measurement challenges."

Evaluating the metrics

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Marketers who get direct sales data have a built-in measurement system. But that might not provide all the answers. The gross rating point, an audience metric developed for TV and radio, is increasingly being used for online and out-of-home ad buys. The GRP is becoming the audience standard across media, but it doesn't shed light on the ultimate metric -- sales. Solutions that combine shopper-card and media-exposure data, such as Nielsen Catalina or Nielsen's effort to match credit card and purchase data with its media panels, aim to address that -- but at an additional cost.

Is marketing-mix modeling the only way?

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No. Direct sellers often don't need it. Many smaller companies can't afford it. Marketing-mix modeling applied to the many factors that influence the impact of a marketing plan is used across industries. But systems based on analyzing surveys of consumers exposed, or not exposed, to ads may fill in where modeling isn't practical. Agent-based modeling, which is good at understanding how many moving parts influence an outcome, is now being used by firms such as ThinkVine and MarketShare Partners to analyze cross-media effects with models of thousands of mythical consumers representing the user base of a brand.

Don't forget about the creative

Credit: Taylor Callery for Ad Age

Marketing-mix models that statistically analyze the impact of various campaign elements and judge return on media investment can account for creative quality -- both of a brand's own ads or competitors. They can do that by using copy tests or syndicated services such as Ace Metrix and Advertising Benchmark Index. But they rarely do. "We know that great effective advertising is driven 75% by great creative and 25% by media plans," said ARF CEO Gayle Fuguitt. But an ARF survey of 59 advertisers, accounting for $50 billion in ad spending, found only 7% take creative quality into account in their models.

No one message or medium is decisive

Credit: Taylor Callery for Ad Age

Online advertising in recent years has focused on attribution modeling, which uses data and statistical techniques to suss out which factors should get credit for sales. It looked to get beyond "last-click attribution," which only credits the last click at the site a customer came from before making the purchase without weighing all the content and ads leading up to the sale. Beyond that, people assume incorrectly that online advertising has the biggest impact on e-commerce. Research shows TV is often a bigger driver of online sales.

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