The Viewing Report

Are we counting what matters? By Dino Myers-Lamptey

27 April 2017

22% of you will love what I’m about to write, 43% of you will support it, 38% will passionately disagree (7% violently), and more of you will believe in those stats than will have cared to calculate that the numbers don’t add up to 100%.

This is inattentional blindness, the plague of our day, and an issue the media industry is partly to blame for.

Marketing pioneer John Wanamaker’s infamous claim that 50% of his advertising spend was wasted has since rallied our industry to find out what half was actually working. Buoyed by endless data, we’ve rightfully attempted to become the masters of attribution, aiming to understand the algorithms of influence that lead to the all-important consumer acquisition.

When it comes to understanding the unknown, we aim for rational nirvana, yet underestimate the power of our emotional bias that almost entirely dictates our decisions. As a result, we believe “facts” that are presented to us and trust that a mere mention of them is proof of research and, more importantly, proof that it matters.

This is an industry that for too long considered a 0.01% click-through rate on an MPU, the mysteriously-named square ad units, as an acceptable benchmark. Not because it was effective, but because it could be counted and compared to all the other “clicking accidents” that were registered for other brands.

The industry has rightfully championed new channels, but has wrongly accepted whatever measurements they spit out as being proof of effect. In fairness to many, measures have only been used as temporary guides while the pursuit of something more robust has continued. But the stats and data can mesmerise, and when there’s so much to understand we forget to ask the all-important question: are we counting what actually counts?

What we have right now is only good in parts, and that’s not sufficient for the promises we make. We need to take the red pen out and not hold back on the editing of our metrics.

The industry has rightfully championed new channels but has wrongly accepted whatever measurements they spit out as being proof of effect

Digital data are providing all kinds of targeting and personalisation opportunities that are intuitively beneficial but, rather than swimming in it, we’re treading water. Every new piece of data tends to bring a new metric for measurement. Centimetres or inches, kilos or pounds, maybe it’s our history? These errors in measurement and data are not cultural quirks. At best, they are mistakes, and at worst, plain fraud. Humans rather than algorithms should be accountable.

To get a grip of it all, we desperately need to slow down, simplify and agree some consistency; even if it comes at the temporal rejection of some shiny new metrics. The industry needs to get a grip on understanding effectiveness and that must be done with industry standard agreements.

If we don’t, the inevitable awaits and consumers will further avoid ads using ad-blockers or paying for/using ad-free subscription services like Netflix or Kodi. This path will only lead to more media providers struggling to survive, and will undoubtedly reduce the quality of content we have available today.

To save ourselves from drowning we have to be clear on what we need and value in data and measurement. This requires each of us to accept that there’ll be little differentiation or competitive advantage when it comes to these metrics. The more simplicity and consistency, the better.

The answers must start with the single clear objective in mind: creativity. It’s what our industry is built for. It’s what wins and it’s what counts.

For me, this is about simplifying and focusing on measuring the “inputs” (“real” reach, frequency and intensity) and “outputs” (impact, engagement and outcome), with universal currencies we all agree on, and across shared and open platforms we can all trust.

Learning to swim rather than drown in the data requires us to come together and learn in a clear and transparent pool rather than a deep and murky sea. So grab your armbands, put your reality goggles on and jump in!

Dino Myers-Lamptey, Head of Strategy, the7stars