IAB Member Q&A Series: Marketing metrics that matter

On March 24, 2022 Research & Resources

Ditch the clicks and embrace more meaningful digital metrics

Digital advertising has long been proven to have a role contributing to outcomes across the marketing funnel, including upper funnel brand outcomes.  This IAB member Q&A focuses on what are the more effective measures of success in digital advertising across attention, brand building and business outcome.

Today marketers are rebuilding their measurement tool kits with privacy-first thinking. So, how are brands adjusting and what success metrics should we be thinking about in this new world?

The IAB Advertising Effectiveness Fundamentals Training Course is here to help those wanting to understand more about the methodologies that underpin these metrics and help you make the right choice for your objectives.

Thank you to those who contributed to this Q&A from Dentsu, iProspect, Kantar, Oracle Advertising, Playground xyz and Ryvalmedia.

Rebuilding the measurement toolkit

Jonathan Henshaw, Head of Product and Innovation, Ryvalmedia   

How are brands, agencies, media owners and vendors adjusting brand and sales impact measurement in preparation for the retirement of cookies?

There is no doubt that the retirement of cookies on Google Chrome will have a direct impact on measurement and attribution models, an impact felt especially by those brands who rely heavily on multi-touch attribution models.

While we talk about ‘preparing’ for the retirement of cookies, it is important to remember that cookies have already been retired by default on both the Safari (2020) and Firefox (2019) browsers. When combining these existing cookie retirements with the implications of recent iOS updates, we can already see a fragmented landscape in which it is difficult to correctly measure and attribute brand and sales metrics on digital campaigns.

We must acknowledge that there is no such thing as a perfect solution when it comes to attribution. Attribution is messy, complex, and never standardised across businesses. While it is great to see many people trying to find the perfect solution in preparation for the cookie-less future, we should realise that there is unlikely to be one answer to the challenge that meets the needs of all.

What we do know though, is that 1st party data and 1st party identifiers are the pathway to a successful future. At Ryvalmedia, we’re consistently discussing with clients the need to invest in CRM & CDP platforms that will give them the ability to accurately activate and measure existing customers.

In addition, Ryvalmedia is actively working with our search, social and programmatic partners to implement and deliver product solutions that seek to utilise 1st party data points to accurately measure campaigns.

These solutions are complex and will require big adjustments for businesses who do not have a tech stack currently in place. KPI’s and measures of success will need to be redrawn and new measurement frameworks will need to be implemented to keep up with the changes that are coming. Businesses which can move at speed and rapidly get up to speed will be the ones who benefit the most. We’re looking forward to working closely with our clients to lead them through these changes into the future.

 Andrew Macdonald, National Head of Paid Search & Social, Dentsu

How are brands, agencies, media owners and vendors adjusting brand and sales impact measurement in preparation for the retirement of cookies?

First-party data and direct to consumer relationships remain central to success for all brands and publishers as more traditional sources of data are removed.

I am optimistic that the industry will adapt and thrive after the retirement of cookies. We are working in a dynamic space with constant change, and this will be another hurdle to jump.

Signal loss has been an issue for a while, starting with Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) changes back in 2019 which removed third party cookies for the 8-15% of Safari browser users. Because of the small scale, this hasn’t had a lasting impact with solutions such as modelled conversions used to recover data.

In more recent times, the 2021 Apple iOS 14.4/14.5 update and App tracking transparency (ATT) framework gave us a better taste of what is to come in 2023 and beyond. It led to a decrease in (attributable) performance, particularly across Meta ad platforms. Some reports suggest that 70% of users opted out of being tracked. Instead of an exodus in social ad spend, the opposite occurred with soaring demand in 2021.

We found that some brands pivoted their strategy to focus more on brand metrics such as incremental reach, brand lift, video engagement and attention. However, measurement solutions that have always been available and are resilient to cookies have increased in adoption and played a role in maintaining campaign measurement and effectiveness e.g. Conversions API (server to server measurement) and MMM. Conversion modelling is also mitigating signal loss and Meta now estimates that in aggregate – they are currently underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 8%, which is down from the 15% estimate reported in September.

In partnership with Meta, the dentsu team have built a tool (beta) that automates the auditing process and makes recommendations for improving signal strength such as advanced matching and server-side integration usage. It’s an exciting next step for us and a great example of agency x publisher collaboration to build solutions.

There are still measurement gaps and the removal of cookies from the Google Chrome browser (scheduled for late 2023) will be more transformational. Brands that start building their data infrastructure and measurement frameworks, based around a single customer view will be in a strong position to capatilise.

Attention metrics

John Hawkins, Chief Scientist, Playground xyz

What is the value provided to advertisers who are measuring and optimising attention?

Regardless of the objectives of a campaign, in order to be effective it requires consumers to pay some level of attention to an ad. This fact of human cognition makes measurement of attention a valuable new tool in comparative evaluation of both creative assets and media. The use of a metric that is meaningful across formats and platforms (like seconds of active attention), provides a universal method for marketers to understand and compare their campaigns.

Multiple studies have shown that, compared to metrics like Viewability, Attention Time on an ad has higher correlation with outcomes like brand awareness, recall, conversions and sales. This facilitates meaningful analysis of digital campaign performance without having to wait for the downstream data (often only available after the campaign has finished).

Attention measurement permits marketers to experiment with variations on a creative theme, and thereby refine the effectiveness of a creative, potentially including channel specific adjustments. Similarly, they can experiment with the placements, targeting and selection of media to optimise campaigns. With many of these new technologies the measurement of attention can be done while a campaign is in-flight, permitting near real-time optimisation.

June Cheung, Regional Director JAPAC, Oracle Advertising and CX

What attention metrics are advertisers finding most useful?

As video represents a significant portion of digital investments these days, we have noticed the rise in attention metrics specific to video being useful in driving media efficiencies and creative improvements.

So, what are the attention metrics most relevant to video? These four metrics can help assess the quality of video ad exposures through a mix of sight, sound and motion signals:

  • % of Video Played In-View – is one of the stronger indicators of attention, measuring the percentage of video that users watched while the ad was in view
  • Completion Quality – playing a video until completion doesn’t tell the whole story, so this metric analyses the percentage of video completions that were in view with audio enabled
  • Audible Rate – accounts for the percentage of impressions where the ad was audible for any period of time
  • Completion Rate – shows the percentage of impressions where the video played to completion

Putting attention metrics into practice, we’ve have seen digital marketers take these metrics to their creative and media agencies as campaign KPIs. As a result, tailoring or adjusting creative to % of Video Played In-View and media agencies pausing campaigns or spend if metrics are not met.

There’s also proven value in measuring and optimizing to attention. A recent Forrester-Oracle study revealed that ad verification delivers as much as 287% ROI due to the efficiencies it drives, as well as the reduced wasted spend.

In conclusion, attention metrics can be a powerful ingredient to how digital marketers measure the success of their media investments. What’s even more important is for brands to continue to connect and unify metrics and data from across organisational silos, as this enables connected intelligence and connected experiences that are designed to delight.

Brand metrics

Bonnie Dodemaide, National Digital Performance Lead, iProspect

How can marketers determine what their brand KPIs should be? In addition to short term metrics, how can marketers identify longer term brand metrics that are connected to business outcomes?

At iProspect we accelerate brands through a performance mindset, it’s a mindset founded in creating media experiences that drive business growth. We can only do that by understanding business outcomes.

A business outcome is defined as a change in business performance, supported by a specific measure. Measurement is the magic word. Almost as magic as effectiveness. A performance mindset drives both.

Binet & field recently said to Mark Howe from Google that the fundamentals of effectiveness have not changed – “Advertising works by making people feel something, emotion is the most powerful force for brand building, it drives long term sales growth and profit.”

Outcomes and measurement need the right KPI’s. This involves unpacking the actual need with your clients and then assigning the right media metric to deliver it. Agencies need to start with more effective media planning, ensuring a clear role of channel for each, that ladders up to business outcomes. Business outcomes such as brand awareness and sentiment inform media KPIs such as reach, frequency and (more recently) attention metrics. To identify optimisation opportunities, a solid measurement framework needs to be in place to maximise effectiveness of the activity in the long term. This could include brand tracking, brand studies, media mix modelling or brand index and social listening tools.

There have been significant advancements in how we measure channels, most recently Karen Nelson-Field’s research ‘No Attention. No Impact.’ In it, she advises that “mental availability is the holy grail measure of brand strength, with repeated proof that attention and mental availability are related.” If we are saying that emotion is the most powerful force, we need to focus on planning our media and setting KPIs that can take active attention and attention seconds into consideration.

A performance mindset is about a balance. The guidelines of where the focus should be varies with many contexts and verticals. We can influence a business outcome and the metrics that drive this if we have a solid plan in place.

Sales and ROI metrics

Straford Rodrigues, Head of Media and Marketing Effectiveness, Kantar Australia

How are you seeing Marketing Mix Models evolving to measure digital campaigns more effectively and provide faster and more detailed insights with less burdensome individualised inputs?

Marketing Mix models (MMMs) have been around for over two decades now and despite the desire to connect media exposure data to sales at an individual level, it continues be the measurement approach of choice for marketeers.

MMM has evolved with time and adapted to the changing market and client needs. There are 3 ways in which it has progressed:

It is more granular – it’s just not enough to look at digital media as one whole block. We know the mindset of online users can vary with context and that affects their performance. Social media for example is very different from search which is very different from news websites. Context and mindset also come into play in determining how ads might best be deployed, as when deciding whether a video should be placed in-stream or not.

It quantifies Brand Equity – a strong brand sets itself apart by offering a brand experience that is meaningfully different, so media choices that amplify that difference will be most effective. In the early days of digital marketing the focus was primarily on performance-based advertising, these days digital is more commonly being used for brand building as well. By including equity impacts when assessing media effectiveness, we are able to quantify the long-term effects of marketing activity and by combining it with short term effects we can see a holistic picture of sales impact and ROI.

It accounts for creative quality – the quality of the creative is of course a critical element in the success of brand communications. To leverage advertising effectively, we believe as much focus should be on what you say as how much you spend. So, while assessing media effectiveness, it is important to account for “creative quality” as it is by far the biggest driver of media ROIs.

Despite all the developments in MMMs they do have limitations; they are unable to capture media synergies and certainly cannot breakdown outputs by target audience, both critical to understanding media performance. Therefore, a MMM complemented with cross-media campaign effectiveness study helps plug the gaps in measuring digital media effectiveness.