Media measurement is the key to success for next-gen brands

Media measurement is the key to success for next-gen brands


Designing a future-proofed measurement solution with scale-ups is one of the most important tasks facing media agencies now.

In the coming decade the composition of our clients will look very different – last year an estimated $430bn was invested in start-ups. In our own business almost a quarter of new client revenue came from these digital disruptors in 2021.

When a start-up has a proven business, raised new funding or IPO’d, it needs to scale-up to hit growth targets. Up until this point the fledgling business will have worked with smaller external partners and tightly controlled resource allocation.

But at ‘scale-up’ stage things change, often quite dramatically, and it’s at this point a larger agency partner is hired. The business is under pressure to attract new customers but often wedded to the commercial time frame returns of the past.

As New Economy brands source new investment, it is our job as media agencies to identify the most effective combination of channels, the highest quality exposures, over particular time frames, to targeted growth audiences. Our media plans are designed to take advantage of the multiplier effect.

But, as we introduce new channels, we need to work harder to make it possible for audiences to stitch our media and messaging together, to realise the full synergistic effect.

Most of the channels these brands harness in their early years tend to be sound-off (in-feed, display, print, search).

Channels that speak to all the senses, especially sound

New Economy brands have calculated risk baked into their DNA, but this often falls down when assessing investment in brand building, whether it’s honing a distinctive identity to avoid boosting your competitors or broadening your channel mix.

One reason for this is that the money being invested is personal, often with friends and family funds on the line. Their decisions have a more profound impact on their future.

Take sonic branding as an example. My favourite sonic branding example comes from a time when I lived in New York, from a couple of personal injury lawyers of all people – Cellino & Barnes.

We’ve all encountered hundreds of thousands of ads in our time, but their sophisticated combination of costly signalling media (TV, OOH) and sonic branding (TV, radio, digital) has stood for 25 years and even became a viral internet challenge in 2018. Consistent and memorable sonic branding charged their multiplier effect.

Things often get both more expensive and harder to measure at scale-up stage. Early success for New Economy brands is predicated on a disruptive product experience, often new to the category, brilliantly targeted to buyers who are pre-disposed to the category and trying new things, which converted to an action/sale in a relatively short time.

But Powerbrands offer a hard-earned lesson worth learning. One of the toughest conversations for New Economy brands to have with their agencies is about immediate vs mid-long-term activity, tightly targeted vs broad, and measuring channels that cannot be tracked as surgically as digital.

A good analogy for us non-entrepreneurs is solar panels. We know solar panels are the right thing, they will make our asset/home more efficient, plus we’ll do our bit to save the planet. We’ve bought the idea, but then the solar agent reveals that it could take 10 years to realise our full ROI.

It’s the right decision, but the likelihood is we’ll leave within a decade and not realise their full benefit. The average tenure of a chief marketing officer is two years.

Everyone believes in the value of long-term brand building, but there is no long term without short term success.

How scale-ups measure success is arguably the most important step in their media investment evolution

Powerbrands know there is no silver bullet to measuring effectiveness, that purchase journeys are non-linear, that they must have global consistency adapted to different markets and increasingly, that privacy limits what can be tracked.

It’s hard to govern measurement, particularly for brands growing at an exponential rate and entering new markets. But peer into a Powerbrand, and you’ll often find teams whose sole responsibility is to govern a clearly communicated set of measurement beliefs, standards and methodology rules.

Good measurement unifies the business around a common language; it improves the quality of data which ultimately informs their point of view on how media impacts sales.

Thoughtful measurement design provides control where needed and autonomy for its users. As media agencies we bring many high-value services to clients but designing a future-proofed measurement solution with scale-ups is arguably one of the most important. It is fundamental in building the healthy conditions to challenge biases, scale intelligence, and take calculated risks.

Supporting New Economy brands as they scale up is both challenging and rewarding. They want advice from our industry – but won’t be bound by the past. They want to learn from Powerbrands – but not be restricted by their behaviours.

In return, we learn a huge amount from them – and they inject energy and enthusiasm into our people.

As agencies, we must do what we do best – be completely immersed in their business but removed enough to offer objective advice.

If we do this with the tenacity New Economy brands bring to their own businesses, our industry can help create an exciting new wave of Powerbrands that endure.

Dan Brown is chief strategy officer, global growth, at WPP media agency Wavemaker

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