Don't Let ROI Mean Removal of Innovation

Heavy Focus on Measurement Can Lead to Meaningless Talk, Bad Work

By Published on .

Ahmad Islam Ahmad Islam
Disclaimer: No ROI was injured or otherwise adversely affected during the creation of or as a result of this piece. In fact, at commonground, we are champions of ROI; daily striving to understand, measure and attain ever higher returns.

Now ... let's just cut straight to our Carrie Bradshaw moment here. When did ROI stop meaning Return on Investment and start representing Removal Of Innovation? Or Imagination even?

Far too often ROI is simply thrown around as jargon to imply "We're smart" or "We get results" or to parrot a client.

We're the generation that has seen ROI concepts strengthened. But we're also the ones who have fueled the quantum jump in which ROI often disappears as an applied metric and reappears as a generalized way to say things as simple as "How much money will we make off that?" (which admittedly doesn't sound as smart).

Sure, it's a natural linguistic evolution -- theory to practice to slang. But in this case ROI slang has consequences when an agency not only takes up that casual talk of "delivering ROI" but also struggles to map its work to ROI instead of delivering big ideas that build brands AND deliver results.

The fact that ROI clearly works often can prove to be a setup for meaningless talk and misapplication.

ROI, while an extremely helpful concept, can prove unhealthy to creative thinking and big ideas if misconstrued as the "be all end all" of your marketing efforts. Ultimately we must deliver results, but the road most traveled is not the only means of accomplishing that objective.

In an era when the emergence of a compelling new (supposedly measurable) medium is a common, seemingly weekly occurrence, this temptation to sacrifice creativity for measurability is understandable. But as agencies we are paid to deliver innovation, strategy and creativity and to bring those to life in ways that make robust connections between people, ideas and brands. Without that stuff, there's not much ROI to measure.

The "big-idea grave yard" that exists on every agency's shared hard drive grows larger and larger as clients and agencies run from ideas that truly stretch the imagination in favor of landing safely on the ideas that are the easiest to measure.

So, the next time you find yourself deep in ROI jargon, do two things. First, dispatch the slang with a real question about what exactly you're trying to discover or measure. Secondly, GET BACK TO THE BIG IDEA. In this case, you can have the best of both worlds.

(A note to our sponsors ... commonground is a big proponent of ROI. We simply believe that new ways of approaching a client's business should not be sacrificed to ensure ROI is easily achieved and measured.)
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