Points of View: Has 'measurability' backfired on digital agencies?

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | November 18, 2008
Measurability was touted as a plus point for online advertising. But has that now become a problem for online publishers?

When & #BANNER1 & # online marketing began, digital agencies pitched it to advertisers as a measurable medium. Now that same concept of measurability is becoming a problem for the digital agencies. Many advertisers prefer to use the medium for lead generation activities, rather than to build brands. Has the measurability concept backfired on the agencies? Let's see what the industry experts have to say.

Anjali Hegde, vice-president, Interactive Avenues

Internet marketing generates a higher degree of interest and involvement amongst its users. Therefore, the digital space is an attractive advertising medium for most brands, especially automobiles and consumer electronics. But advertisers choose to focus only on cost per lead (CPL). So, the largest advertisers on the Net continue to be financial services and web based businesses.

Digital agencies played a big role in this situation. Early on, given the lack of critical mass, we pushed "measurability". Today, advertisers who run campaigns across TV and print - without a CPL focus - flog the digital space to generate "leads" and measure performance on CPL. But soon this "measurability" will see Internet advertising grow.

Sanjay Trehan, chief executive officer, NDTV Convergence

Advertisers have different requirements from ad spends. There are advertisers who consider the online medium for brand building and lead generation activities, and there are others who use it only for lead generation. The latter also consider branding spends if the website can provide the desired results.

Companies should realise that the online medium can be used for certain brand exposure activities as well and that will not happen at zero cost. They are ready to spend on television campaigns, which have a high spill-over and are seen by a mass audience. Although there are chances that their target audience may have missed the ad on TV, they are still happy to air it there. In some ways, this could be called lazy marketing.

There is a need to develop a measurement system beyond cost per acquisition (CPA) and CPL based on parameters such as reach, context and exposure of the brand. That might take three to four years.

Anisha Motwani, executive vice-president, Max New York Life Insurance

The return I get on any media investment is critical. We assign targets to each media investment and track their effectiveness accordingly. It could be through brand track scores and gross rating points (GRPs) for TV ads or leads/footfalls for print. Lead generation is the objective of all digital campaigns, but the means can be diverse. For instance, in a brand repositioning campaign, we designed an online game which makes the consumer experience our brand promise, but also ensures the capture of player leads.

The challenge is to develop campaigns that blend brand building and lead generation seamlessly. We measure brand campaigns on click through rates (CTRs) and cost per impression (CPI), while lead generation campaigns are measured on CPL and CPA.

Prasanth Mohanachandran, executive director, Digital Services, OgilvyOne

The concept of measurability meant that there was a complete shift of risk from advertisers to publishers. Therefore, publishers with measurable inventory which could perform, and agencies which could buy at the least risk to the advertiser (read low cost per click), started doing better. Words like performance marketing came to the fore with neither brand nor creative being immune to this.

However, talks of brand advertising dying are far-fetched. I think it had never taken off and never will until it has measurable value. As we talk, models that will eventually be able to measure brand advertising are being built.

Take search engine marketing. While most felt it was the final nail in brand advertising's coffin, I see it as proof that brand advertising works. In fact for most companies, the search keyword that drives most traffic is their brand itself. Add to that the rise of branded content and videos with the power of measuring interaction, and brand advertising could just become more potent.