So when the ANA released a report entitled ‘Media KPIs That Matter’, I was more than a little intrigued. What the report found won’t surprise too many of us that work in performance marketing: most brands focus on KPIs that don’t really align with their business objectives.
So why is this? For starters, there is a lot of pressure for digital campaigns to be ‘data driven’. I bet if the ANA asked if their members organizations are data driven, 100% would say yes. The challenge is that there is too much data for the decision makers to truly understand. For marketing veterans that came from creative or PR backgrounds (that weren’t exposed to digital media buying earlier in their careers), it is challenging to grade the effectiveness of an omni-channel digital marketing. Thus, they lean on the stats they feel most comfortable with: CPM, CPC and CTR. Website traffic, reach and completion rates. What we have longed referred to at Coegi as vanity metrics. To be fair, media efficiency should be a factor, but far less than many brands think. As my friends at The Trade Desk say, you can’t report on CTR on an earnings call.
So what about ROAS then? Isn’t that the magic metric we should all be optimizing to anyways? It should be in theory, but in practice, it all depends on attribution. Is 100% of the conversion credit going to the last touch or last impression? There are very few digital programs that are even attempting multi-touch attribution, and those that try are stymied by walled gardens that don’t share a unified measurement framework. ROAS numbers are only as accurate as the data you use to analyze it, and too often there is more noise than signal in last-touch attribution. Recent changes to app tracking on Apple phones and the impending elimination of third-party cookies on Google Chrome make attribution all the more challenging.
So what about the agencies? Isn’t it their job to advise their clients as to the metrics they should be measuring? Certainly many performance strategists are pushing to move towards more meaningful measurement, but it often involves a lot more institutional buy-in at the brand that you would expect. Advocating an advanced measurement framework at the end of a proposal just isn’t going to cut it. Often, you not only have to educate the marketing team, but the C-suite, product and sales teams as well.
So what is the path forward for marketers trying to determine their media KPIs? From my perspective, there is no singular KPI that defines success for any digital marketing campaign. Instead, we should build custom measurement frameworks across multiple KPIs, that incorporate not just media efficiency metrics, but also engagement, brand lift, transactional data, and ROAS analysis, to get a better understanding of your digital program as a whole. Furthermore, it can be worthwhile to revisit the more academic and statistical forms of analysis, such as media mix modeling, matched market tests, and regression analysis, to get to the heart of success.