Cross-Channel Media ROI measurement, a myth?

January 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm 1 comment

A recent study by core metrics shows that German marketing decision makers are more into cost/benefit analysis of their online spend than their counterparts in the rest of Europe. Culturally speaking, this shouldn’t be a big surprise. We are talking about Germans, after all.

However, what is interesting is that the study says that the reason for this is to get a sense of transparency in the time of a looming crisis, and that it is hard for Online Managers to really measure the success of online tactics across multiple channels, and how different channels influence each other.

In other words, no one really knows if online media is actually really working if you take a look at campaigns as a whole.

This is a problem we have we’ve noticed as well. After years of promising real-time ROI numbers in online media, it turns out that it’s not what it was cracked up to be. In fact, it might be wastful use of marketing budgets.

There are the following difficulties we see, plus recommendations to avoid them:

a) to start with, most online campaigns are set up badly for ROI measurement to begin with, even when it comes to just measuring online online media activity. Clients still think: hey, it’s digital, so it’s faster. It’s not. Sometimes it’s even a lot slower.

Set up your metrics and measurement strategy in the very beginning.Not only does it help in having results you can tie back to objectives, it also helps in identifying objectives for the communication strategy of how to build the digital (non-media) experiences that follow after the Click-Through.

b) secondly, yes you can measure more stuff online, but most brands don’t use or understand what you can measure and how these data influence each other. Because of this people don’t look at more than reach and click-through or time spent. There is little to no integration even between the different types of digital metrics in campaigns. Mostly, clients get numbers back on CTR and such from the media agency, but no one considers the effect on the user interaction afterwards, even though tools are readily available to integrate media traffic data with site usage information.

In the end, what you measure online shouldn’t just be the traditional reach and GRP numbers, or time spent. This an interactive medium, so your ROI needs to have data points from which you can infer the effectiveness of the digital experience, not just the ad message, you give people.

c) Online media plans suck 70% of the time. We’ve seen some outrageously boiler plate media plans, obviously made by media people, who, even if they work in an online media, don’t really know what they are doing online. We’ve even seen the SAME exact media plan for 2 totally different campaigns for 2 different brands with 2 totally different target audiences. This sounds harsh, but it’s really frustrating. If the media plan isn’t right, you waste money and the chance to activate the right people with your digital creative platform.

Make sure you get either a pure play digital media agency, or have your creative agency (the people who actually create the digital platform strategy and digital experience behind the banner), have a sanity check run over it, or both. There are exceptions where traditional media agencies also know their stuff, but it varies from country to country.

d) Another phenomenon is the tendency to forget your CRM program. Oftentimes, CRM Programs run alongside campaigns with little integration, or an after-thought. This is a shame not just because you could have optimized the overall campaign based on database insights and created awareness through DM or e-mail, but also because you missed the chance to generate more names.

Call up your database guys: sometimes they can even throw a piece of budget at you because they haven’t thought about how to use the names yet or if they have, they didn’t have money for a bigger campaign. And alas, suddenly, you have more data points from direct response elements.
d) And finally, to address the cross-channel measurement issue: the biggest reason for not being able to achieve comparability is the different types interaction (or lack thereof in traditional channels) people can have in different channels  (i.e. banner vs microsite vs widget vs print ad) and the target’s context (ie Bustop vs. sitting at home in front of the PC). The numbers are channel specific because the medium is a different one, and also their meaning is different from the user experience point of view. Communication objectives of a print ad campaign don’t sync up with numbers you get from how much traffic you got on a website because maybe you didnt need to measure the reason to believe of your message but the reason to interact on your flash app.

When intending to achieve comparability between channels to measure effectiveness you should start with a measurement plan that includes all channel measurement opportunities (meaning every data point you can get in all channels) first, starting with the most complex channels first. Then you define Channel specific measurement that achieve communication or interaction objectives in THAT channel. Then you define commonalities between channels (e.g. a bus stop ad could have a measurement commonality with an iPhone application, simply because the person’s context is the same) which should inform and validate your measurement strategy overall and in the end you KPIs overall. There will always be a grey area of interpretation necessary, but if you have measurement integrity on the channel commonalities, you can make a lot more sense out of the data for your overarching KPIs than when you take boiler plate KPIs first and then try to find them in each channel. They just don’t map.


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