Measurement: 'Further Than Nowhere, Less Than Somewhere'

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

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Every conversation about digital marketing invariably raises the "M word" -- measurement. Everyone knows the internet is the most addressable medium. However, there is no single standard that clients and agencies can use to benchmark their programs against each other.

The industry is crying out for a standard, but don't wait around for a single number. It's not coming anytime soon. The current alternative is chaos as every agency and marketer scrambles to concoct its own recipe. Some of those -- like page views and uniques -- are based on outdated models.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.
The lack of a standard is a big problem. It's creating confusion and an aversion to spending. According to Booz Allen Hamilton, 98% of media executives say this deficiency is inhibiting marketers from spending more on digital.

The Four A's and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) are about to try to change that. The leaders of the two trade organizations announced at last week's Forbes Online Brand Forum in St. Maarten that they are working together on an initiative to identify the "metrics that matter." Four A's President-CEO Nancy Hill said their intent is "to develop a common language" for digital-marketing metrics.

"We are further than nowhere, less than somewhere (on measurement)," said Randall Rothenberg, president-CEO of the IAB. "Everyone is hoping for a magic metric -- a [gross-rating point] equivalent. That's not going to happen."

During a panel that also included ANA CEO Bob Liodice, all three execs stressed the need for uniformity. Rothenberg and Hill said they have convened a small working group that will take the first step in establishing a set of metrics that aims to be relevant 80% of the time for 80% of marketers. The ANA has not joined the initiative yet but may at some point.

The Four A's and IAB plan to open up the process to a larger group for input as the plans progress. Ultimately, however, for this initiative to be successful, it's entirely up to the agencies to embrace their recommendations. Hopefully they will, because standards that span both reach and engagement are the quickest path to getting clients more comfortable in investing more.
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