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Measurement is the new digital

Measurement is the new digital

We must be careful to define exactly what we mean not just by measurement, but also cross-media and cross-platform, in our search for “the Holy Grail” for advertisers.

I have worked in measurement for over 30 years in agencies, publishing and now in out-of-home (OOH). I have never seen such a spotlight on measurement as there is now.

In years gone by, measurement was always the aspect of advertising that was seen and not heard, it just happened and was often an afterthought. That has all changed – and it is a good thing too! I have always said, and continue to say, that advertisers spend money to get a return.

I often plagiarise Jane Austen in my commentary on this: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a brand investing money in advertising must be in want of a return”.

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If I’ve counted correctly, there have been 14 articles on the topic of measurement on The Media Leader alone this year; not surprising given its remit to focus on measurement.

But what do we mean by measurement?

It feels to me like measurement is the new digital.

Allow me to explain: when I first started working in publishing at Newsworks in 2015, it became clear really quickly that digital was both an opportunity but also a problem for publishers.

What is digital? It’s a means of delivering content, just like print or linear TV. But so often digital was at best split into formats (video, search, display) rather than content (TV, YouTube, video on publisher sites). And at worst, it was treated as an amorphous mass. This caused a huge measurement problem as the growth was coming from digital newsbrand readership.

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I commissioned a number of projects to address this, and also wrote a number of pieces for The Media Leader over the years on this very topic.

A quote from a McKinsey report a few years ago stated that “digital is less of a thing and more of a way of doing things”.

I feel we are going down the same rabbit hole with measurement.

What exactly do we mean by measurement and cross-media?

Is it counting audiences to the advertising, content, or both? And what is the interaction between those two?

Is it looking at people’s emotional responses to advertising, content, or both? Is it ad campaign measurement?

That’s quite different from counting audiences in my opinion. And are we measuring potential opportunities to see (impressions) or realistic opportunities to see (impacts)?

And what about outcomes? What do people actually do as a response to advertising?

We need to be super clear on what we mean, otherwise we will end up with an amorphous mass in measurement that means nothing.

What are we measuring, which metrics and at what stage of the consideration and purchase process?

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My other bugbear is defining cross-media when it comes to measurement. In my view the industry gets confused between cross-platform and cross-media. The two are very different.

Cross-platform is about the consumption of similar content in different formats – so for instance OOH on either static posters or on digital screens, The Great British Bake Off watched on a TV set or on catch up, or an article in The Sun in a physical newspaper or online, or Ken Bruce’s PopMaster (one of my favourites) on live radio or on catch up.

Cross-media is about the interaction and measurement of different media channels whether that be OOH, television, radio, news brands, magazines, cinema, on whichever platform the content is delivered, and whether that be exposure or outcomes.

No medium is an island. We know from work from Peter Field and Les Binet on the IPA Databank that it takes several different channels (to different platforms) to deliver a successful outcome for a brand. And I’m under no illusion that this is a difficult ask, perhaps even the Holy Grail.

As we approach the Future of Brands tomorrow, I am delighted that measurement is coming front and centre in discussions, getting its place at the top table. I am hopeful for some much-needed clarity and looking forward to the debate.

Bring it on!

Denise Turner is chief executive at Route Research.

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.
Andy Brown, Consultant , Andrew Brown Associates , on 25 Apr 2023
“Hi Denise. Thank you so much for calling out the definition of terms. I share your bug bear for the (often wilful), misuse of the cross media and cross platform terms. My understanding is that ASI is looking at building an updated glossary (at least for video measurement).”

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