Why Measurement Is Still Screwing Up the Online Ad Business

The Problem Can Be Fixed, but It Will Take Your Help

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Sherrill Mane
Sherrill Mane
Digital media measurement is a mess, and we're all responsible for it. There are multiple vendors producing ever-growing quantities of data that often do not agree with each other, even directionally. There is no "currency" that governs the planning, buying and delivery of guaranteed audiences for advertising flights. What's more, as an industry we have contributed and created the faulty perception that online advertising is not brand hospitable because of the way we have allowed online advertising to be evaluated and bought on direct response metrics like clicks and actions.

For too long, we as an industry have fueled the problem and done little to suggest solutions. As a result, it has created a complex and costly supply chain and compromised the ability of marketers, ad agencies and publishers to be accountable for advertising expenditures.

A solution is possible
The IAB, the ANA and the 4As have joined forces in an effort to solve the measurement mess and live up to the promise of being the most accountable medium.

We need you -- the industry's best and brightest. For the good of the industry, we need to put aside competitive differences in order to find a radical rethink for digital and cross-platform measurement. We are forming a cross-industry coalition of experts drawn from consumer marketing companies, advertising agencies and media companies that will identify and create consensus around the metrics and systems that are needed to run our businesses. The coalition will identify a solution that embraces the needs of all digital media in a platform agnostic fashion.

In addition to creating the solution, we need a pervasive and ongoing system of accountability. We must create a governing body -- an industry-wide body that sets standards and ensures that measurement will consistently address the evolving needs of the industry. For example, the Media Rating Council (MRC) could play the role of the governing body, but it would need to be empowered to do so across media, which would take broader support from marketers, agencies and media organizations.

Time to stop scapegoating
Measurement must be approached as a business process that incorporates research science rather than as a research process that seeks support from the businesses. And that business process must be one that incorporates a vision and a structure for change management, innovation and quality assurance. Discrete research RFP's alone cannot fix the problem.

It is mission critical that measurement and metrics stop being the favorite scapegoat of the media business. Media, both traditional and digital, have long blamed measurement for multiple revenue maladies. As an ecosystem, we must stop talking the talk and begin walking the walk.

The structure, process and objectives of the proposed solution are a distillation of many voices of many thinkers throughout the ecosystem and inspired by the findings of a report ("Digital Marketing Metrics: How Can Innovation Unlock More Dollars?") done for the IAB and the 4A's by McKinsey & Co.

And for industry to take control
It is time for the entire ecosystem to take control of measurement. That includes defining and using metrics that matter -- metrics that take us from counting exposures to valuing exposures to contributing to brand health to putting paid and earned media together in creative cross platform campaigns -- and providing easy to use post-buy analyses. Yes, you just read that long bombastic sentence. And you will read it again because it captures the dire needs we have today. They will be exacerbated if we do not solve them now.

The ANA, the 4As and the IAB together with any sensible businessperson who wants to follow consumers in a digitally transformed world are waiting for you.

I can't wait to hear from you.

Sherrill Mane is senior VP of industry services at IAB, where she leads the organization in two major areas: complexity and cost reduction; and industry growth. Previously, she spent 14 years at Turner Broadcasting Sales, holding a variety of senior advertising sales support positions for the news division, most recently as senior VP market strategy.
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