The Mis-matched Translation of Digital Measurements
The one argument that digital media planners have used to lord over all other traditional media (primarily TV, Print) is that digital media is more measurable and accurate. And digital media most definitely is more measurable.
We don't estimate or extrapolate how many times your ad showed up, we get actual impressions delivered numbers. We don't guesstimate the frequency of delivery, we set a frequency cap. If there's something that can be measured, we measure it:
- analytics to measure how many people come to your website, spend how much time, where do they dropout from, etc
- ad server measurements for ad delivery
- ad verification and Viewability to tell you if people even got a chance to really see your ad or if it was served to bots
- AdWords to give you a whole host of metrics on what people are searching for and how they respond to your brand
- brand lift studies and brand studies to see if beyond clicks people get your communication
- engagement rates to see if people care about your posts on social media and are you popular enough
And the list goes on. We have a measurement tool for everything in digital!
But in the midst of this arsenal of tools lies a fundamental problem - most of these measurement tools don't talk to each other.
Facebook's click numbers may not match with the ad server's click numbers. Analytics numbers don't match AdWords numbers. Mobile analytics doesn't talk to most ad servers built for websites. How then do we make sense of the data? Honestly, I don't think we can. Translating one tool's numbers into the other's is like translation itself - you can get the broad words across but usually miss the essence of what was said.
Is this confusing? It is! A decade into digital media I've made my peace with it. But it still frustrates me every time I try to explain it to a newbie. It doesn't help that every digital professional has their own opinion on which tool is superior.
In Google's effort to build a complete ecosystem they are the only ones who are trying to integrate measurement systems and currencies into single dashboards and cross-stream data. Unfortunately it doesn't help that they come across as someone with a vested interest in doing so.
The second huge problem is that we have managed to build so many digital currencies that we are more likely to scare marketers than convince them. Is it surprisingly then that they demand and focus only on ROI metrics on digital while TV gets away with estimations and extrapolations?
I don't have an answer to this. But what I have learnt is to be clear on what we're chasing as the brand's and team's objectives and focus on measuring that well. All other metrics can then be used as and when required and de-prioritized. Too many priorities is as good as having no priorities. So don't get lost. Pick a goal post and focus.
And if you find a better way to manage these data points do let me in on your approach.