Digital Media

A Note On Digital Metrics

Morpheus Media, the digital media and strategy agency, is a monthly contributor to The Makegood. This column was composed by Dave Surgan, Manager, Digital Media Communications.

Last week I heard a familiar grudge that digital media does not have enough hard metrics to justify a shift in marketing budgets. It’s true, mass media can provide a scale that is hard to match. Let’s take a quick look at how a few mediums measure:

1. Nielsen measures audience size for TV – they only track 20,000 households (50,000 people) in the whole damn country.

2. Arbitron measures audience size for radio – they only track 70,000 people in the whole damn country.

3. Magazines self-report their circulation rates which are audited by an organization run by the very same magazines.

With a properly tagged digital campaign we are able to track most or all interactions with our content and the resulting visits to a website including the user journey and purchases. Actual human beings and actual behavior. Compare this with the turning of a printed page – nothing. We are able track far more within digital and waste far less. Because of this level of accountability, digital media can and should be held to a higher standard. It is the Heaven and Hell of our industry and we will continue to strive for more precise measurement tactics across a diverse range of contexts.

Best results will always be driven by an integration of plans with both mass and targeted media, however no longer can we lean on the common argument that digital cannot justify a spend that mirrors how our customers spend their time.

  • Tom Cunniff

    Dave, the problem with digital is not a lack of metrics or a lack of data. And the reason brand marketers have not devoted more money to digital is not a lack of courage. These are persistent myths that are getting in the way of real progress. The problem is that our industry is using DR metrics to measure brand-building. This will never work because DR is an event (“did they convert NOW or not?”) and brand-building is a process. Brand dollars will not increase in digital until we let go of the idea that it is an unalloyed good that we can “track far more within digital and waste far less”. What matters for brands is reach and influence over time. The ability to track more events doesn’t matter if those events are not meaningful. (Worse, tracking non-meaningful events can be actively misleading.) Wasting less doesn’t matter as much as we think it does if we are trying for broad-based awareness: in my opinion a little waste is actually *good* — it’s like noble rot on grapes 🙂 Lastly, an important and real distinction between traditional and digital is that traditional media has viewers but digital has *users*. It will always be easier to get people’s attention in traditional media because they are in “entertain me” mode. In digital, we are often task-focused or can easily be pulled into that mode by an email or Facebook alert. More metrics won’t solve the problem. Rethinking how brands approach digital is what is needed.

    • Dave Surgan

      Thanks for the thoughts, Tom. Great points.

      Digital is used in numerous contexts yet we are compared to static experiences of the past. Digital reaches goals ranging from branding and more often direct response. We must take continue to take advantage of our relatively new ability to adapt with our ‘users’ and stop attempting to shoe horn legacy metrics and models solely built to reach the most eyeballs possible.

      • Tom Cunniff

        Agree, but IMO marketers must use metrics that correspond to what they’re trying to accomplish. Doing a DR program or sampling? Use DR metrics. But if we’re brand-building over time, we should be measuring impact over time. I’ll finish with my most contrarian point: sometimes it’s not only OK but really, really *smart* to use metrics based on reaching the most eyeballs possible. That may sound crazy now, but I firmly believe this will be conventional wisdom in a few years. There’s a fairly big logic gap when the industry argues “you should advertise in digital because that’s where consumers’ eyeballs are” and then does a 180 degree turn to say “but you shouldn’t use it to reach eyeballs.”