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Is digital advertising growth at risk? spoke to a host of digital experts and most of them are of the opinion that there is an urgent need for a system that measures performance accurately and consistently

Last month, Kantar Media’s new research warned that if the advertising industry doesn’t find a way to measure performance accurately and consistently, Procter & Gamble’s threat to pull spend from digital advertising will be just the tip of the iceberg.

The study showed that lack of consistent, comparable measure to understand the audience and gauge the effectiveness of advertising is of significant concern for those working in the communications planning ecosystem. It also said that brands are unable to consistently measure the impact and effectiveness of advertising from channel to channel and from market to market, which risks damaging consumer relationships.

It is high time that players in the digital space put together a system to measure performance accurately and consistently. spoke to digital experts and asked them if there is a threat to the growth of digital advertising. Most of them did agree to the fact that there is an urgent need for a system that measures performance accurately and consistently.

The biggest challenge that the industry currently faces is that people who have been measuring conventional media for so long feel that digital should be measured in the same way – even though it is totally illogical to measure it that way.

Andy Brown

Andy Brown, CEO and Chairman, Kantar Media, said, “Without the availability of consistent, comparable metrics, brands and the advertising industry cannot accurately measure their audience, the impact and effectiveness of their marketing and the accuracy of individual campaigns. It’s a collective challenge for our industry: unless we work together to solve this problem, the growth of the sector will be hindered.”

Vivek Bhargava

When it comes to conventional media measurement, television audience information of over 150 million households is gathered based on less than 20,000 metres, points out Vivek Bhargava, CEO, DAN Performance Group. He added, “Basically we are predicting the behaviour of 10,000 people based on the behaviour of one person, not only that, we are ignoring the viewer behaviour such as switching channels or left to complete a quick task during the ads, fast forwarding because of DVR and so on? Even if circulation or readership is considered in print, one is measuring it based on a huge assumption on population – that all members in a household are reading the publication. What about OOH, how do you know how many people are actually seeing it as they pass.”

Bhargava continued, “If the same ad is put on digital and if you see one million views, you are sure that all of those one million people genuinely saw it. It’s all based on actuals with scope for detailed analysis – if a user is on the website, you know the number of clicks, what they saw, how much time they were on it, the action they took, where they navigated and so on.”

While digital measurement may not be perfect, how can one say print, TV, OOH have a sure shot measurement system? Bhargava is happy to sit down and prove to anyone interested that digital measurement is 20 times better than conventional measurement metrics. “We can definitely improve digital measurement further. However, if one opens it up for comparison with other media measurement processes, it’s undoubtedly the best of the lot right now. Its high time conventional media is questioned on its measurement, and the day that starts happening, its future will start looking bleak.”

Another crucial point is the fact that advertisers will go where consumers go. Consumption is going to digital – for instance on Netflix, Hotstar and other over-the-top (OTT) platforms than on TV. OTT platforms give a different watching experience in terms of clarity, speed, variety of content, flexibility in watching the medium and lot more. Bhargava strongly believes that digital advertising in the future is nowhere close to being at risk – quite the opposite actually.

Digital media is not a simple replacement of mainline, it is a complement that touches consumers at different point of their life cycle. Hence, one cannot mirror the methods that work for one medium to the other.

The challenge in digital media is not related to its growth, but how to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. The amount of advertising and marketing technology available keeps growing exponentially and being able to find quality tech and vendors is a task on its own.

Venugopal Ganganna

Asked if other players who advertise on the digital platform will follow what Procter & Gamble has threatened to do, Venugopal Ganganna, CEO, Langoor, said, “Procter & Gamble’s concern is the inability to see impact on revenue based on their digital media spends. That concern has historically been there even with traditional media. In fact in many ways digital platforms and media offer more metrics than ‘main-line’ media ever has.”

Long-term, advertisers are looking for accountability with agencies. A likely model will involve having a 'carrot' for agencies to perform well.

Faisal Amin

According to Faisal Amin, Co-founder and Business Head, FruitBowl Digital, for every rupee that is spent, a result should be measured and only then is marketing affected. He thinks that digital advertising can be ignored for a lot of other reasons, but the last of them would be the lack of accurate performance.

Digital gives one the advantage to gauge insights like how many people have viewed the video, what kind of impressions it has gathered, amount of time spent, and engagement and so on. Of all mediums of communications, digital currently gives the most accurate and deepest level of insights in terms of performance.

Sharing his opinion on whether digital advertising growth will decline, Sandeep Balani, Director, Outbrain, said, “Measurability has been both a boon and curse for digital. Clients have over the period of time shifted budgets to digital as they have been seeing results. However measurability as a term for clients has evolved. Not having a proper measurement means that more brands will play by their own rules, concocting their own set of measurement standards that might be unduly in their favour. Trust will only continue to wane.”

Interestingly, many clients turn to digital advertising in the hope of gaining valuable insight to the right performance metrics – from brand reach to conversion rate down to a single ad – areas they do not get to track through other advertising mediums. “So if the expectation of coming to the digital medium is a sophisticated measurement of performance, unfortunately, we might see clients taking a call to pause their digital advertising for a while,” adds Balani.

However, digital is where the growth lies in a country like India, particularly with digitisation becoming the key driver of the economy and most users watching shows and browsing content on digital. Advertising on digital therefore cannot be ignored.

While digital is more for the young and the millennials and technology-savvy people, traditional still reaches out to a larger audience. It still reaches the nooks and corners of the country. It still reaches out to a large number of people who are not that digital savvy. All in all, the growth of digital advertising may not be affected to a large extent, but the medium definitely needs a proper metrics system in place soon.

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