Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

When no measurement is perfect, how do you avoid false digital attribution?

By Florian Clemens, VP of Media and Analytics at Circana

The effectiveness of social media and TV, and indeed media in general, seems to be a continual discussion as advertisers and media agencies strive to find ways to show that ad spend is delivering the best ROI.

But as the IPA’s latest Effworks study ‘The Third Age of Effectiveness’ finds, no dataset or measurement is perfect. Further, since there are multiple synergies at play, measures of effectiveness should not be done in isolation.  

This is especially true when looking at the complex go-to-market strategies of leading consumer goods brands.

It’s especially essential to understand how multiple media channels and other levers – earned consumer touchpoints, the use of in-store retail media and display, and pricing mechanics such as promotions – work together to influence sales.

Store-level sales data is another essential input and will ensure that you measure the effectiveness of all these factors against how each store performed in that week. This provides the ‘closest to reality’ read and avoids any aggregation bias; compared to just looking at total national sales.

Digital’s brand halo

When it comes to looking at how media campaigns work together, it is important to keep in mind that digital measurement is frequently enhanced by other media campaigns, particularly brand awareness campaigns like TV.

This needs to be monitored carefully for false attribution, particularly as brands continue shifting spend to digital media, which they believe to be outperforming other channels. For example, using the same video assets in digital that consumers already saw on TV creates synergies, but also a transfer of TV’s effectiveness onto the digital channels.

We also need to factor in the short-and long-term effects of media and the influence that in-store mechanics such as display and promotion have on sales. Analytics have advanced so much in the last decade that mapping the ideal mix is not the complex and lengthy exercise as it used to be. It’s actually the media agency’s collection of two year’s worth of detailed TV GRPs, paid and earned impressions, and all other marketing inputs that takes the most time, so try to make this process an ongoing part of your agency contract.

Media boosts effectiveness of in-store promotions

There are many instances where aligning media plans with sales promotions or marketing campaigns can have a positive effect on ROI – the classic example is having radio ads that air on a Saturday morning when you have big in-store promotions running the same week.

This kind of media support for in-store promotions can really lift their effectiveness. For one grocery brand we measured, such media synergies added 39% incremental volume over a three year period.

The blurring of long and short-term ROI

Planning based on short-term outcomes alone can cannibalize long-term growth, particularly for digital media.

In our analysis across dozens of FMCG brands over three years, TV and Video on Demand show the greatest combined short and long-term ROI, with display and search advertising the least.

Sales and marketing should work together to test, plan and measure the impact of their media, promotion and instore tactics.  

Clearly we need a better grip on the flaws of digital attribution and greater appreciation of long term over short term tactics. It may have been more than a century since industrialist Lord Leverhulme (or if you live in the US, John Wanamaker) first articulated the challenge of measuring advertising effectiveness – Half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half – but it seems many marketers are no clearer today about exactly what elements of above and below the line spend deliver the best return on investment. As our industry re-assesses how to align media closer to other departments, now is the perfect time to implement a better way of measuring ROI.

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