Marc Pritchard is right – it’s high time that digital grew up | M&M Global

Marc Pritchard is right – it’s high time that digital grew up

When three of the world’s top five advertisers are unhappy then it’s time for change. Gonzalo Fuentes, global chief executive, media and digital practice Kantar Millward Brown, outlines a more mature approach to digital.

Gonzalo Fuentes

Digital is an important part of the marketing toolkit but recently it’s been under fire. Marc Pritchard from Procter & Gamble, Keith Weed from Unilever and Marcos de Quinto from Coca-Cola have all made public criticisms.

Their arguments were not that digital wasn’t valuable but that it needed fine tuning, to become more accountable and move beyond its extended period of experimentation.

The reason is simple: digital is simply too big not to be fully accountable and to be able to prove its contribution. According to GroupM, this year global digital advertising will represent 33% of all media spend. TV will be 41%. In key markets like Australia, Germany, China, France and the UK, digital spend already is bigger than TV, or will be this year.

While experimentation is an essential part of digital and will remain so, when you are taking more than three out of every ten pounds, dollars, Euros and Yuan spent on marketing, scrutiny should be expected.

Making the move from experimentation to established channel means demanding change in three critical areas:

1 – Start asking how digital can work for your brand

Too many brand owners come to us and ask how their brand should adapt to the digital ecosystem. This is the wrong question. It should be how can the digital ecosystem contribute to my brand strategy?

This approach forces us to look at digital as just another tool that needs to be part of our overall brand plan. The impact of not doing it this way is something we are seeing too often: brand fragmentation.

2 – Stop trying to understand silos

There is plenty of evidence that advertising with a specific digital publisher is effective in driving brand equity. Such information was relevant when there were question marks about the impact of digital investment, and remains relevant for new publishers and new formats.

However, the time has come to move to a holistic view. The goal has to be cross-publisher measurement. It is now often more valuable for an advertiser to understand the synergies between publishers than individual contributions. Kantar Millward Brown’s cross media studies show that synergies explain as much as 25% of media effectiveness globally.

3 – Get serious about measurement

We know that the industry needs to become more transparent and accountable. Brands should be asking themselves how they assess communication effectiveness beyond metrics that are difficult to link to business performance.

As recently as five weeks ago, I read a report showcasing the impact of a mobile digital campaign in the Philippines. The report concluded that this mobile effort – part of a wider campaign – had clearly contributed to the growth of market share for the brand. Then it followed to provide more details on the mobile campaign metrics: 20,000 people had “interacted” with the banner – it was unclear what that means – and 2,000 people had downloaded the video.

The target audience was well over 12 million women – so 20,000 people had affected market share, really? It’s time for CMOs to start questioning such claims.

“Digital advertising measurement has created an expectation that we need to do passive tracking of who has and has not been exposed”

Getting serious about measurement, means firstly using metrics that we know have business impact. There is plenty of evidence that building brand equity drives growth. There is also evidence that CTR is not a good proxy for business results or brand building.

The truth is that there are other metrics that are more logical and very performance driven: number of website visits, downloads, member registration or online sales. The danger is that is that they can lead to tactical communication strategies, which is why brand impact needs to be a central part of the digital metric suite.

The second area of focus needs to be robust but flexible metrics. Digital advertising measurement has created an expectation that we need to do passive tracking of who has and has not been exposed. This is certainly what we should aspire to but fragmentation of publishers and devices means this is no longer possible in all markets around the world.

The solution is to allow some elements of probabilistic measures of exposure. Many advertisers, agencies and publishers are starting to agree, since this is the only way to break down walled gardens and deliver cross device and cross publisher measurement for all.

All three of these steps are within our control. They are things that we can start doing differently now even as we continue to invest in platforms and technology.

Making this work requires everyone to challenge their partners and their clients to stop looking at digital just as a “shiny cool thing”. We need to put it to work for what we are more passionate about above anything else: the brands we work with.

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