Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

NDA Roundtable: Understanding the correlation between media and sales performance

With the siloed nature of many businesses when it comes to media, it can sometimes be difficult to accurately prove if an element of a campaign has managed to drive an uptick in sales. Often, this isn’t helped by the disconnect between what marketers are presenting back to their businesses, and the metrics that show the correlation between media and sales performance. So, how can this be changed?

To discuss this, NDA partnered with Scibids to host a roundtable with a group of industry experts, including Joseph Lee, Media Activation Partner, Essence; Zuzanna Gierlinska, Managing Director, Xaxis UK; Nathan Taylor-Billings, Head of Activation, Matterkind UK&I; Dan Bigmore, Senior Director, Solutions Consultancy, The Trade Desk; Eldon Cate, Digital Client Lead, Starcom; Michelle Sarpong, Head of Display & Audio Activation, the7stars; and Matt Nash, UK MD, Scibids.

“When the CMO stands up in the board meeting, to showcase how they have spent the money that the business has given them to invest, I doubt very much they say, ‘we’ve delivered a billion video views and 10 million clicks’ . They don’t talk in those metrics,” said Nash from Scibids. “If the vast majority of your activity is still being run toward a media metric, there’s a big disconnect there. CMOs and senior management desire the ability to measure true ad effectiveness in real-time, which requires a different approach and, in most cases, sophisticated technology.”

Matterkind UK&I’s Taylor-Billings believes that “especially big advertisers” should be placing
money into acquiring first-party data for multiple reasons. He said: “From a programmatic
standpoint, alongside privacy regulations and the demise of the third-party cookie, it’s also
about media wastage. We don’t want to bombard you with ads to ‘sign up’ if you’re already a
customer of that brand, for example.

“What can be challenging is brands understanding the need for first party data, but being
reluctant to invest in the initial implementation. Another challenge is sometimes around their
existing data teams, and the mismatch in what they need, versus what they think they need.”

Meanwhile, Essence’s Lee compares it to driving, because only focusing on one part of the driving experience will inevitably lead to an accident.

“When you’re driving a car, you’ve got a lot to look at. If you only focus on the dashboard, then you’re going to crash. There are important signals on that dashboard, but you need to look at everything” explained Lee. “There are maybe brands who are just measuring correlation between media and sales, and some that are trying to find causation, and some that are looking for a direct impact… There are brands who see the correlation with localised in-store sales. But there are those that will say, “if I can’t directly measure the impact of that on my ROI and my lifetime value, I will not touch it, and I will switch it off.”

What are you bringing to the table?

At Xaxis, Gierlinska encourages her team to place a focus on “metrics that matter”. When speaking to marketing leaders the first thing she asks is: what are the metrics you report into your business?

“Once it gets to the CFO’s table, it’s never going to be media metrics. At best, it’s ROI. But, most of the time, it’s actual sales and/or profit,” Gierlinska said. “How can you translate what we do on the media side, and all of the different signals and measurements we have, in order to deliver what we need to deliver back into actual real business impacts? Digitally, you can do that, because you can connect the dots. Where it becomes more challenging is offline sales but we know, intrinsically, there is a halo effect of digital media on to offline behaviour.

“Attribution for next year will be the big thing to prove that value, to make that connection, and really solidify the return that brands think they are getting, and actually being able to demonstrate it.”

Starcom’s Cate believes that “intuitively, clients do know” about the relationship between media and sales performance. However, he supports the need to give real thought to what’s being measured, and how to present this back to a business. He said: “Our data science team always talks about doors and windows in shops. Doors are performance-led spend; windows are more your branding spend. And you need both. You need to window dress to attract people, and then doors are actually knowing people are in there.

“Ultimately, when you get in front of the CFOs you can’t be talking about our stuff. You need to somehow find a way. For film clients, does social buzz correlate to ticket sales? For car clients, does search intent correlate to car sales? You can think of loads of different ones.”

The fundamentals

Sarpong of the7stars believes that brands do have an understanding of the relationship between media and sales, and points to the Covid-19 pandemic as being the turning point in the focus of businesses, with many being forced to pivot quickly to adapt.

“This is the time to reset,” Sarpong suggested. “For example, footfall wasn’t the primary objective for a long period of time, in terms of driving sales. That part of the media chain and funnel was cut off. So, we had to look at different solutions. Now, we’ve got a mixture of both. And we’re in this world of hybrid working, with different consumption patterns of media, which has massively had an effect. That’s where we really need to look at the relationship between media and sales.

“The pandemic forced clients to really look at their media mix, and how they can pivot to drive the objectives,” she continued. “It also gave us the opportunity to take stock and review whether we need all these media channels, and really focus on where we can find the right audience at the right time.”

In the end, it all comes down to trust between the brand and their agencies and/or tech partners, according to The Trade Desk’s Bigmore.

“We might get a brand first using our platform and, obviously, we’re going to optimise to what we can get hold of and what they tell us will work,” he explained. “But we always find that the deeper we get that relationship, the more credibility we have to start saying, ‘actually, we believe this is working’. It’s about constantly being transparent, and constantly giving them the data to say what we think is working, how we’re testing, and if we can get more data.

“Getting further, especially with our business, is to then have that conversation about what are the true business metrics that are going to make a difference to that brand. How do we get a hold of them? How do we get a proxy for that? How do we start to understand how you are reporting?”