ClickZ editor Anna Maria Virzi addresses the topic of measurement and metrics in the digital marketing world in a recent article . The point she makes after observing industry execs in action during Advertising Week in New York City is that, even though this medium provides more than enough data to keep us busy analyzing our efforts till the cows come home, the lack of consistency and standardization is doing us all no good.
This excerpt from her article, which recounts a panel discussion at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s MIXX conference with Mark Kingdon, Organic chief executive; Beth-Ann Eason, Martha Stewart Living SVP; and Jon Mandel, chief executive of NielsenConnect, hits the issue straight on:
While there’s plenty of data about online activities, it’s not sufficient. “There’s not enough talent to turn the data into insights that are actionable,” warned Eason. Kingdon concurred: “It takes systems thinkers, not technologists. It takes people who can diagram the ecosystems, understand the connection points in how the data and things flow. That’s a different analytic discipline.”
Anna Maria asks “How can interactive media live up to its promise and move beyond the egos, politics, and sea change to reach some common ground?”. The answers don’t come easy. The television industry lived on the GRP for decades when “reach” was the one thing everyone understood and agreed to. But it is not that simple anymore.
The question to ask is “can what was good for TV be good for digital?” Can there be such a thing as a gold standard in digital measurement? And, do we really need to converge on a set of metrics and create a common denominator? Perhaps that simplifies things too much.
My issue (to a certain degree) with developing measurement standards is that it leads to benchmarks. The problem with benchmarks is that they lead to complacency and settling to deliver against the average (i.e. just aim for the 10% conversion benchmark and you are a champ. But what if your potential is really at 50%, or only 3%?) There are just too many variables idiosyncratic within any business to apply a one-size-fits all model. And, the growth of new channels/avenues and applications in digital complicates the whole thing. How do you compare Twitter with email? A banner ad with a blog? A video with a widget or an advergame?
The real issue, as Kingdon indicated, is that data needs interpretation. It needs pattern recognition where we serve to increase the ratio of signal to noise. Data needs to be understood and shaped to use in actionable (and profitable) ways. That much we can agree on.
As we go forth we need our eyes wide open on these issues. Taking a “forest through the trees” look at things, a parallel can be drawn between analytics/metrics discussion and the glorious CRM debate of a few years back. In both cases, there is no such thing as an “off the shelf” solution, or common approach for all. There is no perfect formula or software system that can be applied with homogeneity. As Arthur Middleton Hughes wrote “CRM is, in general, a mirage: an illusion based on a nice idea (the right offer to the right customer at the right time), which does not work out in practice.” At the end of the day marketers need to know their own businesses issues and key success criteria independent of the mean.
As this industry grows stronger, there is a need to improve how we articulate success so phrases like “engagement” and “interaction” will go further and mean more. However, we marketers can’t lose sight of the fact that the playing field is so much more dynamic today and it is quite difficult to try and summarize it in a nice little box of metrics that everyone agrees upon.