Ladies and gentlemen, the white elephant has left the building.
It was in the building and dominating more than a few conference rooms for years. The white elephant was palpable but not quite visible as blue chip brands were discussing a long-term commitment to digital advertising, but they were really facing the inability to consistently measure results. Or they had lingering doubts about committing more money to digital when “nobody ever got fired for buying more TV.”
The elephant we’re talking about: antiquated digital measuring systems still clinging to a $30 billion industry.
My experience with pitching blue-chip brands, is that the elephant is gone. We’ve moved beyond having to evangelize about moving into better, more holistic digital marketing and measurement and away from last click measurement (the measurement model that disproportionately gives all credit for a sale or desired action to the last click at the bottom of the funnel). With the last click Kool-Aid behind us, the next year will be about accelerating digital spending for brands. We’ve seen a dramatic shift in attitude to the point where three blue-chip companies – industry leaders in three large ad verticals – are pulling the trigger on entire new measurement systems, in this case attribution modeling. These are big brands—brands that advertise on the Super Bowl – and they’ve not only realized the elephant in the room, but ordered it out.
The IAB says that nearly two thirds of B2B digital budgets have increased this year, with the number-one objective being to increase brand strength. Nielsen’s report, “Beyond Clicks and Impressions: Examining the Relationship Between Online Advertising and Brand Building,” shows evidence that brand metrics, which show that attitudinal response to online campaigns can predict offline sales. The research further shows that there’s virtually no relationship between click-through rates and brand opinion or offline sales. As any experienced online marketer who’s seen it all knows: clicks can play tricks.
The Nielsen report in particular shows that marketing measurement has infinite possibilities for CPG brands, fashion, auto and consumer electronics. I see from our own slate of international meetings this fall that the discussion has turned from “should we leave last click behind?” to “how do we measure online marketing success more effectively?” and “how do we know we’ve spent our money properly?” Blue-chip brands have made the move. I’ve noticed three common themes in their decision-making process when picking a firm that helps them leave last click measurement behind:
Reputation: If an analytics firm is going to partner with a blue-chip brand, track record, management team and financial stability is critical. I’m all for start-ups. I’ve been involved with several. But even for start-ups, reputation is analyzed with the sum of every single interaction.
Consistency: Consistency of effort, personnel and analytical rigor is a hallmark of the blue-chip companies. Partner companies can’t load up on the first fastball and then underdeliver for the rest of the season. Measurement is a process, not an event. It should be treated as such.
Data: In my experience with blue-chip companies, data is what you lean on. It’s your hallmark. Solid and consistent data means a company can report measurement results without apology, without taking credit and with the long view in mind. Blue-chip companies don’t care that your data and methodology worked once. It needs to work every time for a long time; and most importantly, your data has to be easy to use. The new normal is a client needing an answer in hours instead of weeks, and systems need to deliver on real-world demands.
Now that the blue chips are in, the biggest mistake would to invite the white elephant back.
He’s still around. He’s still nimble.
But most importantly, change is afoot.