Did it work? The question is certainly not a new one for advertisers and media owners, but the answer has varied greatly by the type of method and metrics available. Methods have evolved from observed browsing habits to claimed behavior (survey) to actual sales data. But regardless of the method, the answer remains the difference between doubling down on media budgets and a fierce -- and often public -- war where agencies or publishers fight to keep dollars earned one CPM at a time.
But, if this question is so critical, then why is measurement (even closed-loop measurement) based on retail sales data -- a frustrating concept to most agencies? Or publishers?
Because it's expensive and, in many cases, comes at the end of the campaign when literally nothing can be altered, optimized, or adjusted to actually drive additional awareness or sales -- let alone media or creative investment. Like many data enablers, I have spent quite a few working sessions with agency strategists and inventive publishers. Some of the most capable and analytical talent I have ever met has been in those meetings, so third-party researchers beware: Using the "nobody wants to be measured" line is mostly baseless -- everyone wants to show great results, and great minds produce great results. Even if you don't believe me, you have to know that no single campaign that you can slide by without measurement is worth a brand's lifetime of media spend by holding yourself accountable on a consistent basis.
So, if it's clear that accountability is the key to return spending, why would measurement be dead? It's because most measurement products align to the question "Did it work?" but get really expensive if you are seeking both the granularity of measuring hundreds of programmatic line items or need frequent turnaround throughout the media campaign. The source of the problem is the data that feeds the solutions taking weeks to be loaded, and weeks again to be analyzed.
Point -of-sale system data answering a question can be up to a six-week turnaround (even from the folks leading the industry). It's accurate, but the limitation on most advertisers' annual media plans leads to one, possibly two, but unlikely more than three major measurements if you account for sample size of the exposed audience, and match rate to the data source for a major advertiser in a twelve-month period.
The slowness of the data has presented a massive demand for sources that manage the data directly connected to payment and, over the last few years, we have seen MasterCard, American Express, and others begin to provide answers within days, if not hours. Move over measurement, the era of optimization is here.
Optimization lives and breathes for data sources that have 24-48 hour turnarounds (or faster). Not without challenges, but those data sources present a new opportunity for advertisers, agencies, and publishers, allowing them to make decisions based on what tactics will drive incremental sales dollars in the most efficient way compared to all other tactics -- a granularity and speed test that point-of-sale systems might fail, but payment systems such as a credit card companies may be able to deliver on. Then, hundreds, if not thousands of measurements can occur in any campaign and be delivered back to the agency or platform executing the media and by default be summed to the total impact. The result is that the advertiser receives the answer to "What worked?" but, at the same time, the agency or publisher gets to use the data and the budget to optimize the right tactics and build a case for further investment presents itself. The only thing left to figure out is how you charge for all the answers the credit card or other payment company can provide. Maybe measurement isn't dead after all.