Oh dear. One of the biggest advertisers in the world is making bad noises about the internet, disguised as good noise. Who could it be?
In this case, it is Proctor & Gamble. The firm's corporate marketing director, Roisin Donnelly, has been talking to NMA. It made the front cover, under the banner: “Poor metrics curb ad spend.”
It pains me to inform a company with such deep pockets that they're wrong about all this, but as the following statements show, they seem badly off track.
“P&G is moving ever more of its marketing budget into digital,” explains NMA, before quoting Donnelly:
“[online spend is] four times higher than it’s ever been measured at and it’ll be even higher this year, especially as the hundreds of small sites we use aren’t being measured.”
Well that’s a bit confusing. And why aren’t they measuring small sites? Weird.
But what comes next is even more disturbing. After complaining about the relative cost of online advertising vs TV, Donnelly really sticks the boot into the internet’s lack of measurability.
“Another barrier is measurement. We know how to measure TV, we know what the ratings are. Online has been slower to set up measurement systems, even though ISBA is working on it now. It’s desperately needed.”
Has the world gone mad? Or just P&G’s marketing department?
Firstly, the TV thing. Unless some amazing new development has occurred, I was under the impression that most TV ratings are defined by the 6,000 or so BARB set top boxes that are located in various households around the country.
So nobody really knows what the ratings are, but it’s agreed that this is a rocking way to measure TV. Doesn't matter that It Isn’t Very Accurate.
How come BARB is regarded as a suitable device for measuring TV? You have to extrapolate the data massively. As far as accurate measurements go, this system sucks, surely? To use BARB as some kind of benchmark for what constitutes a decent measurement system seems plain wrong.
TV panel data is also available from other companies, at a cost, but panels are panels, and the data they provide is to be taken with an industrial dose of salt – give me accurate web analytics numbers over that stuff any day of the week. It’s amazing, given the amount of budget brands like P&G spend on TV ads, that the demographic profiling of any given TV show is based on such limited, inaccurate data. If accuracy doesn't matter offline, then it doesn't matter online. Right? Hmmm...
I don’t at all understand how “online has been slower at setting up measurement systems”. I interpret this as: “P&G has been slower at setting up measurement systems”. Presumably P&G has heard of web analytics? Or ad networks? Or ad serving solutions?
Maybe we are once again talking about the dreaded demands – typically from offline marketers, including P&G - for ‘a single common currency’. What the hell does that term / demand actually mean? I hate that phrase almost as much as 'paradigm shift'. Does 'single common currency' simply mean that TV-focused marketers simply don't want to deal with terms like ‘page impressions’ or ‘clickthroughs’ or ‘unique users’?
You can measure the effectiveness of ads in any number of ways, so long as you have good measurement tools in place, and have predefined goals and metrics. You can measure CPA ads by CPM or CPC. And CPM ads can be measured by CPC or CPA. It doesn't matter how you buy advertising, in terms of whether it is effective or not (and it might not be, in P&G's case). Ultimately though, you measure ads by the business goals you've set - number of new customers acquired, for example. It's much easier to see this sort of visibility online, though for multichannel brands it can be difficult.
Measuring the effectiveness of ads across channels is harder, but let's stick to the basics: is my TV / internet / print / billboard ad effective? And if you can measure the effects of, for example, TV and print campaigns in conjunction with one another, then you can certainly do the same for the internet.
Maybe Donnelly is in denial: “We haven’t stopped watching TV ads,” she claims. Actually, many of us have – Sky+ boxes are now in 16% of Sky’s installed user base - and that’s one trend that will continue apace, like it or not. More than one million Sky subscribers regularly avoid ads. Does P&G pay 16% less for its TV ads these days? IPTV is on the horizon too, which should seriously shake-up the TV advertising landscape.
Reading the interview, it feels to me like P&G are significantly behind in terms of its approach to matters internet. Are these stalling tactics? I realise that this is one company that is hugely into brand marketing, and pushing out messages on a mass scale, so maybe the web isn’t cost-effective for P&G. But, you can’t know what you can’t measure, and P&G’s approach to online measurement seems shady at best. Or not there at all, if your site is considered ‘small’. That’s a classic TV advertiser’s approach to return on investment...
But whatever we think, let’s not compare the measurement systems for the TV and the internet, because for my money there’s only one winner in terms of accuracy, and it ain’t the telly.