Matt Andrew, Partner & UK GM at Ekimetrics, a pioneering leader in data science and AI-powered solutions.
Organizationally, there are three main ways in which marketers measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts: an in-house team, media agency services or an external marketing effectiveness measurement provider. Having worked both client-side and now as an external provider, I’ve seen firsthand how each has merits and potential downsides.
On the upside, in-house teams are typically close to the data, systems and activities of the organization. Media agencies (who you buy your media from, and one of the biggest marketing investments you’ll make) often offer measurement and effectiveness services as an add-on for clients at an attractive price point while also providing context of the media landscape. External marketing effectiveness providers are usually highly specialist data science agencies with expertise from across sectors, data and media platforms.
While in-house teams will almost always win on depth of organizational knowledge and the ability to access the right data easily, they’re often stretched across numerous requests and may, at times, lack detailed access to broader perspectives, whether that’s across industries, media options or analytical techniques.
Many media agencies bulk buy ad stock (i.e., advertising space, such as TV spots, out-of-home/billboard positions, radio slots, etc.), which allows them to offer the best rates. However, it also means they could have a surplus of less effective inventory (for example, obscure channels or late-night spots for TV or where there is poorer footfall for out-of-home) that must be used up. On the whole, this is a trade-off marketers accept to get the best deals. But it’s still important to understand that trade-off, where the margins and cutoffs are in relation to the effectiveness of each instance of advertising and the effectiveness of the overall mix to steer budget decisions or focus on more or higher-quality outcomes.
Transparency and objectivity are paramount in marketing effectiveness if you’re to unpick impact and develop an optimal media plan. The plan must be free from any unintended bias that may arise, perhaps from pressure to include poorer performing channels or stock, in order to balance those big purchasing decisions and/or justify media planning decisions in the measurement.
An independent marketing effectiveness provider may be better equipped to tell it how it is, arming you with the truth that is in the story of the data to help you negotiate the media plan and deal that’s right for you. For example, if media planners typically include out-of-home in the mix, but you know out-of-home rarely works well for your particular market, it gives you the opportunity to use those “dissenting voices” to discuss planning recommendations.
More broadly, developing a culture of data-informed decision-making, particularly at a C-suite level, is just as important as delivering the data architectures and analysis to support those decisions. Not only does this help foster the necessary transparency and objectivity, but it also provides the basis for developing consistent and commercial metrics across measurements that are inextricably linked to business performance. In my experience, finding a provider that has an approach that demonstrates this—and ensures adoption, self-service and skills transfer are part of the development plan—will yield far better results, beyond the mechanics of marketing effectiveness.
Fundamentally, it’s essential that media planning is a collaborative discussion between you, your measurement provider and your media agency, because media agencies have broad insight from across their landscape—a landscape that changes regularly—and this brings significant value. Their experience with other brands can reveal where channels are less performant overall than they were previously. With the benefit of that insight, between the parties, you may choose to weight your media spend differently. Similarly, media agencies may have considerable insight into channels you’ve never used before but that could help you unlock fresh audiences—an important part of any marketer’s job.
Successful marketing and advertising measurement needs both independence and collaboration between teams, with the client, media agency and measurement partner working in harmony and to their strengths. Understanding their role, motivations and permission to present their views helps you avoid single-option thinking and arrive at the most objective and best-formed opinions. This, in turn, will result in more actionable insights and, ultimately, more value from one of your biggest cost centers in marketing.
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