Measuring digital marketing campaigns can feel a lot like the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, except instead of following breadcrumbs to get out of the dark forest, marketers are trying to link metrics together to determine what drives campaign success. Unlike the Hansel and Gretel story, though, most marketers aren’t reaching their desired destination. Instead, they’re stuck trying to find their way out of the forest—that is, they don’t understand how their ads are performing and how they can improve campaign performance. The reason is, marketers are still using ad verification as the measure of success, when in reality, they need to be measuring far beyond verification.
Using ad verification as a measure of campaign success is a lot like stopping after the first three breadcrumbs—it gets you started on the journey but won’t get you to where you want to go. In contrast, measuring beyond verification not only guides you out of the forest, it ensures you have a road map you can follow next time.
With that said, how do you measure beyond verification? In truth, it means something different for every brand and advertiser—each with their own goals, industries, and campaign objectives. But what follows is a list of five best practices that all advertisers can follow to ensure their measurement strategies extend beyond the baseline of valid, viewable, and brand-safe metrics; and into more advanced, detailed measurement that reveals the true signs of success.
When viewability standards were first introduced by the Media Rating Council (MRC) in 2014, marketers began using viewability as the end-game measure of success and optimized their campaigns for it. But it was never intended to be used in this way. In fact, viewability was, and still is, intended as a starting point on the journey to more definitive measurement. It’s the baseline metric that makes measuring attention possible. George Ivie, CEO and Executive Director of the MRC, quoted in Ad Age, explains, “The viewable impression was never meant to establish the value of the advertising. It was meant to establish 'Did it have an opportunity to be seen?’”
In 2020, marketers need to change their mind-sets to regard viewability standards in context—as the baseline, minimum threshold of performance. This is increasingly important, especially as new and advanced metrics are more readily available across platforms, channels, and devices. These metrics—such as Audible and Visible On Complete, Audible Duration, and Active Page Dwell Time—are making it possible for marketers to understand how people pay attention to their ads and campaigns, and the specific components of campaigns that can be optimized for success.
An underlying principle of sound digital media measurement is to ensure you’re measuring every impression across every campaign. While individual campaigns have their own specific business goals and objectives, from a measurement perspective, they shouldn’t be analyzed in silos. Instead, always-on measurement helps you determine how platforms, channels, and formats impact performance. Then, you can identify high-performing areas that you can improve with better creative, alternate messaging, or different formats, and so on.
Media measurement is more sophisticated today than ever before, so it’s critical for marketers to leverage the full breadth of metrics available to them to ensure they’re measuring what matters.
Effective measurement strategies match metrics to campaign objectives—for example, a brand awareness campaign has different objectives compared to a customer acquisition strategy, which requires a different set of metrics to understand performance. Sound measurement is about ensuring all the relevant metrics have been identified and are continually tracked to identify optimization opportunities.
Marketing teams approaching measurement in this way can understand which viewable campaigns are driving the most sales, which channels should get more investment, or how their ads are improving brand awareness across priority channels such as social media or connected TV. This mind-set gives marketers the ability to attribute digital advertising campaigns to real business objectives, and, in turn, deliver tangible business results.
Brand safety has never been more important than in today’s digital marketing environment, but despite the complex and often volatile nature of online content, most advertisers are still relying on rudimentary tactics such as blocklists and allowlists. The challenge with this strategy is that it often excludes content that is appropriate for advertising or leads to gaps in brand safety that put the advertiser at risk of reputational damage.
Successful advertisers are acknowledging the need to go beyond these tactics by employing brand-suitability measures that are custom to their brand and adequately balance risk with opportunity. This means using full-page content contextual analysis to create brand-safety segments that protect brands from specific areas of sensitivity (recalls, negative reviews, etc.) in addition to contextual targeting segments that unlock inventory in safe and relevant environments.
Detecting invalid traffic (IVT)—whether malicious or not—is crucial to ensuring advertising budgets are spent cost-effectively. However, not all IVT detection is the same, and advertisers need to beware of technology that over-classifies domains as invalid, thereby blocking valuable content. This leads to wasted ad spend and limitations on scale and reach. Unfortunately, this IVT misclassification often happens with the most valuable inventory, such as premium video players, Connected TV, and in-app. These environments have nuanced technology that requires additional research and development and rigorous quality assurance on behalf of the measurement vendor—things that not all vendors offer. So be wary of the promise of high IVT rates from technology vendors and measurement partners. And ensure that IVT detection across your campaigns is accurate; otherwise, false positives will distort results when reviewing campaign performance.
Attributing advertising activities to business outcomes is the holy grail of marketing, and with better measurement technology, marketers have never been in a better position to do so. But the technological progress is worth nothing if marketers and business leaders don’t rethink their strategies and overall philosophy. The means to measure beyond verification are available; it’s just a matter of marketers demanding more from their measurement partners—of following all the breadcrumbs until they reach their final destination and can confidently identify all the signals of performance and how they’re driving success. Once that happens, the fairy tale of linking outcomes to marketing campaigns becomes a reality—and an exciting one at that.