Digital should be the most accountable medium ever… yet ironically the biggest issues for most marketers are how its delivery is accounted for, and understanding how effective it is.

The delivery challenge was brought into focus by P&G’s Marc Pritchard earlier this year when he called for a clean-up of the digital media supply chain, focusing on transparency in viewability, verification, contracts, ad fraud and brand safety.

There’s another scandal though, which is largely ignored. Most digital campaigns are still measured on clicks, an almost meaningless number. This is because digital is treated as a direct marketing channel, and the effects on brand are largely ignored.

The real challenge is how marketers can treat digital media more strategically and tread a new path to understanding effectiveness.

Marketers who are serious about understanding how to deliver returns and growth need to think really hard about their objectives, and then measure them – a more mature approach.

Instead of thinking of digital as a direct marketing medium (another envelope coming through the door, hoping to be opened, or encouraging someone to buy something RIGHT NOW), marketers need to use it to create awareness or build desire. Digital can help brands to grow, reach new audiences, and deliver benefits in the medium and longer term.

There’s no doubt that many marketers are getting it wrong: analysis of our digital market norms data shows that the bottom fifth of digital campaigns have negative impact on key brand metrics (-4.8% on average), while the top fifth have a positive impact (+9.6% on average).

While the online world is very complex (many would argue overly so) and not as transparent as it should be, there are three basic areas where marketers can make immediate gains:

Firstly, they need to know what they’re buying. Even in today’s flawed and walled digital advertising ecosystem, there are tools that can help measure and understand invalid traffic and ensure brand safety. These are basic hygiene factors for all digital investment. There’s no excuse not to be using them.

Secondly, they need to define their objectives for the campaign, asking; “Do you want consumers to know more about you, think differently about you, or to do something, on or offline?” The objectives will be different for every brand and every campaign, but once identified they can be measured, as can the brand impact and the impact on sales. Regular measurement can lead to the development of their own norms, as well as referring to larger category or country norms, revealing whether they’re doing a good job.

Marketers need to understand how consumer perceptions of their brand are being influenced by digital marketing. Marketers need to avoid destroying any hard-earned trust by choosing irritating formats or unnecessarily high frequency, for example.

Finally, identify what you are not doing. One of the most common measurement mistakes is not measuring holistic campaign activity – assessing cross-channel campaign effectiveness to provide a view of how each channel is performing, and how they are working together to drive your brand metrics. Kantar Millward Brown’s recent Getting Media Right study found that while 90% of marketers say they measure ROI to some degree, 64% are measuring ROI for online ads and only 32% are measuring ROI on TV.

Without insight into their media mix performance, marketers will be unable to judge if their agency is doing a good job. Our research found that less than half of advertisers now have confidence in the optimal media mix, 43%, compared to 50% in 2016.

Proper campaign measurement shows the value of each media channel in delivering unique reach and frequency and contribution to brand measures is clearly understood. This insight can then be used to influence the customer’s journey, making it more likely they’ll go on to buy a brand.

Marketers need to measure across all media channels, devices and consumer touchpoints to understand if the brand experience matches the brand promise and purpose, and if they are working together optimally.

The bad news for marketers is that the uncertainty and change is never going to go away. New data integration capabilities, new devices, finer-tuned targeting and new digital opportunities will continue to proliferate. Brands must measure effectiveness to continually improve existing campaigns and inform future strategy which will guide their investment decisions.

As digital media become simply ‘media’, all marketers should have a strategy and a plan for measuring its effectiveness. It may not be easy, and it may not be perfect but there are always ways around it.

As investment in digital increases, so do expectations. Digital channels should be used for brand building – and effectiveness measurement will become a critical benchmark. 


By Jane Ostler, managing director of media & digital at Kantar Millward Brown UK

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at

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