The cost of chasing the biggest, richest and shiniest new toys

A recent article by Laurie Sullivan, Video In Rich Media Ads More Likely To Lead Customers To Purchase, sites a DoubleClick benchmark study that suggests rich media ad formats that contain video “overwhelmingly” outperform other types of creative media ad, such as images and simple animation Flash. Not surprisingly, the pioneers in every medium get the attention and benefit of impressed consumers and often times mainstream news coverage of their advanced techniques. However, as more marketers plow money into video ad formats, consumers will quickly become de-sensitized to them, performance will level out and marketers will be left chasing the next latest trend.

This is not to say that marketers should not be experimenting. Experimentation is vital, especially with the rapid growth and adoption of new technologies, and all marketers should have a portion of their budget designated to test and trial these new techniques, formats and technologies. And it should go without saying that this should all be evaluated in the context of your brand positioning. If you claim to be hip, innovative and technically savvy this ups the ante for your marketing experimentation requirements.

However, I think there is a greater danger than missing out on the latest format or technology promising .147% higher CTRs. That is the switching cost of moving on to a new technique before you have integrated and optimized existing techniques in the media-mix. And ad format is only one piece of the equation for online advertisers who should also be evaluating how creative, placement, targeting and timing are affecting their ROMO. In addition, marketers should be tracking post-click behavior or changing brand attitudes to understand the longer term and cross-channel affects of their campaigns.

I would argue that becoming more efficient in existing techniques through experimentation and experience will drive better results to the bottom line than chasing the newest, biggest and richest ad formats around.

Online measurement needs a cross-channel upgrade.

With a marketing seat at the C-level table and a recession still dominating the headlines, the focus on accountability in marketing is greater than ever before. Consumers are adding new online activities, like video and Twitter, while continuing established online and offline activities throughout their purchase paths.

While marketers have done a good job by adding these new channels to their marketing mix, they have not successfully integrated execution or measurement across these channels. The blessing and curse of the Internet is the ease of measuring and tracking things like impressions, click-throughs, and activity. As marketers have relied on what is easily measurable, they have often ignored metrics that align with their objectives and provide actionable insight in supporting business decisions.

Improving marketing measurement effectiveness is a never-ending journey, but marketers can take some manageable steps to get started:

  • Map business goals to campaign objectives and specific tactics. The first step in any marketing process should be aligning business goals to marketing objectives, selecting focused tactics to accomplish that objective, and measuring the results. For example, an organization’s strategic goal of strengthening their brand across key segments can draw support from various functional teams. Marketers can strictly define their contribution and objective to increase awareness by five percent for a youth segment. With an understanding of key segment’s behaviors, and attitudes, marketers can create relevant social marketing campaigns designed to drive awareness for their brand or product.
  • Identify the metrics that matter and the existing data gaps. Each new marketing channel ads its own series of new metrics, for example social marketing introduced metrics like time interactions, spread of content, velocity, number of friends, posts, etc. Only with clearly defined campaign objectives, can marketers sift through the list of things to measure and identify the metrics that measure the business success of campaign tactics. To accurately measure change in unaided and aided awareness for your brand or product marketers utilize brand surveys or professional brand monitoring services from firms like Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony. Identifying the data gaps that exist, like measuring lift in brand awareness, is like acknowledging there is a problem. It’s the first but huge step towards recovery.
  • Conduct experiments to verify assumptions and fill data gaps. Inevitably the metrics that matter are not easily measurable or readily available. After identifying existing data gaps marketers can create a simple 2X2 matrix to compare the value of the data with the cost of obtaining to help prioritize data gaps and pick the low hanging fruit or build these costs into future campaigns. Also consider commercializing this matrix to identify latent needs in other functional teams and help build the business case for more marketing measurement investment. To temporarily fill these inevitable data gaps marketers can obtain data through an existing source in another functional team, for example PR or market research teams may have ongoing brand tracking studies. It may also be worthwhile to understand if there is a company wide accepted correlation between the data you have, like impressions or number of branded searches, and the data you need.