The future of measurement: What lies ahead for digital marketers in 2020 and beyond

By Mark Kopera, director of product management, Moat by Oracle Data Cloud

One of the greatest advantages of digital advertising over traditional media has been the ability for marketers to measure and report on the effectiveness of their ads. Linking advertising to consumer action and understanding the depth of attention and nuances of performance has long been the promise of advertising online. But despite over 20 years of innovation, effective measurement and proving the value of marketing remain major challenges for brands and advertisers.

Digital advertising spend is expected to reach £16.21 billion in the UK next year, dwarfing estimates for traditional media, according to eMarketer. By 2023, that number is expected to grow by 8 percent to £20.74 billion.

As we enter another decade of robust growth for digital marketing, here are five trends shaping the future of measurement that will help marketers plan for a quantifiable and successful future.

1. Verification becomes the baseline, not the goal

When the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) established the guidelines for ad verification, they set out to eliminate inconsistencies in measurement. Most marketers now evaluate whether an ad is valid, viewable and brand safe as the baseline measure of performance.

As digital advertising continues to demand a greater share of the marketing budget, however, marketers will increasingly demand more from their measurement strategies to justify the higher investment. Relying solely on verification will no longer be enough.

That’s why innovative marketers are moving beyond the verification floor to build higher goals for the success of their campaigns by measuring their impact on consumer action.

The advanced metrics that go beyond valid, viewable and brand safe impressions to reveal how consumers are paying attention to advertising online are becoming increasingly critical to ensuring ad spend is optimized and waste is limited. These attention signals are helping marketers not only understand the effectiveness of ads across channels, platforms and devices, but also get to the core of their desired outcomes and reveal opportunities for monetization.

2. Media quality gets a rebrand

 With brands and advertisers moving beyond verification, publishers are also faced with changing how they measure and report on inventory. For publishers though, rethinking measurement means a whole new approach to media quality.

Publishers are tasked with demonstrating to brands and agencies that their environments, content and audiences are premium. This allows them to command greater share of advertising dollars in a highly competitive environment. But to do this, they need to tell a compelling media quality story. And that story has to be more sophisticated than basic brand safety and viewability.

When publishers measure media quality only in terms of brand safety, viewability and invalid traffic, they are missing out on other important signals that reveal comprehensive insight into how their ads are performing.

The truth is, there are myriad factors that influence media quality, including page and ad clutter, ad formats, photo galleries, site experience and traffic quality. Forward-thinking publishers understand this and are therefore able to tell compelling stories to their brand and advertising partners.

3. Marketers focus on business outcomes

In his speech at the 2017 Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting, P&G’s Marc Pritchard asserted that, “The days of digital getting a pass are over.” Sharing a number of reasons why it was time to put up or shut up, he made it clear that digital advertising needs to be held accountable and measured on business impact.

But nearly three years after that speech, many marketers continue to operate without a deep understanding of how their digital strategies are impacting their businesses. To achieve that understanding, marketers must measure beyond clicks, impressions and other vanity metrics, so they can link their digital advertising to tangible business outcomes.

For example, a fashion brand advertising online today may have two core business objectives: to drive sales and to increase brand awareness. If the marketing team focuses solely on buying impressions that are valid, viewable and brand safe, they may achieve their baseline digital verification requirements, but they would not have succeeded in achieving their business objectives. Rather than measuring only on verification, that marketing team could use that measurement to better understand what viewable campaigns are driving the most sales, which channels should get more investment and how their ads are improving brand awareness across priority channels like social media or connected TV.

This is a fundamental change in how marketers think and approach their campaigns. But ultimately, the ability to attribute digital advertising campaigns to real business objectives is helping marketers maintain a strategic position in the organization and deliver tangible business results.

4. New channels bring new opportunities for measurement

Today’s TV and video landscape has changed dramatically over the last ten years. The explosion of streaming services, connected devices and second screen use has revolutionized how people find and consume content. This presents a major challenge for marketers when the traditional advertising metrics they have relied on don’t translate to TV equivalent inventory and their new media mix. Inevitably, marketers have been forced to evolve their measurement strategy to accommodate new and emerging channels and devices.

Take the rise of Over-The-Top (OTT) and Connected TV (CTV) devices as examples. Whether you come from digital or linear background, advertising on OTT and CTV devices forces you to rethink your approach to measurement. Marketers cannot implement a clicks-based measurement strategy to OTT or CTV, neither can they rely on the Nielsen TV ratings or Gross Rating Point (GRP) to measure digital ad performance.

Consistent and standardized metrics are needed that adequately measure depth of consumer attention across the range of media channels they use, so we can assess the apples-to-apples impact of ads on these channels. Today, we’re seeing metrics such as interaction rates, video completion, audibility, screen real estate and frequency across device become more commonplace as advertisers devote more budget to OTT and CTV.

5. Ad fraud gets more sophisticated, but so do the solutions to fight it

Despite broad cross-industry collaboration, ad fraud remains one of the industry’s most vexing issues, expected to rob advertisers of an estimated $44 billion globally by 2022. Unfortunately, it is a problem that is not going away any time soon, with challenges like false positives on premium channels undermining confidence in the advertising ecosystem at large. Such challenges have widespread revenue impact for publishers while diminishing the ability for brands to reach into highly attentive environments and effectively allocate valuable dollars.  And as it spreads to apps and across devices, fraud will continue to evade detection unless all sides of the industry take proactive action to stamp it out.

Measurement providers have an obligation to ensure they are identifying instances of fraud and working to eliminate it. And as the cost of fraud continues to increase so too will the pressure on measurement solutions to fight it. While there is unlikely to be a catch-all solution, there is a growing chorus of marketers opting for enterprise-grade solutions that combine advanced analytics, massive data sets, sophisticated security tools and human expertise to drive the future of fraud mitigation.

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