Rahul Vengalil
Guest Article

Businesses serious about measuring digital investments need to do more...

Here's why.

It was in back in 2012 when I heard of 'GRPs' for the first time. I was marvelled by the way mainline planners and brand managers planned a campaign and, more importantly, monitored or measured their campaigns against GRPs. What left me even more dazed was that brand managers and media managers wanted a digital equivalent for GRPs. I honestly thought they were a little too adamant about that one metric that everyone chased. Fast forward to 2018, when investments towards digital advertising have exploded and I am now marvelled by the fact that there is still no GRP equivalent as a digital metric.

Businesses serious about measuring digital investments need to do more...

Rahul Vengalil

Unlike traditional advertising, which is unidirectional and has to chase the consumers, digital is much more complex and multi-directional. Advertisers in the digital space are fighting three wars that are often not understood completely.

1. The consumer's journey has become complex. Mobile has added phenomenon like Meshing, Shifting and Stacking. Context, in digital, becomes very important. One goes to the internet when they want to, need to, wish to, and have to. Their frame of mind and the corresponding response to an advertisement changes, which businesses overlook.

2. Digital advertising is like a chain reaction. Every action by a brand has a response. Each response is captured as a data point but on different platforms. However, businesses look at data in silos of Paid, Owned and Earned media. In some cases, it is broken down further into performance campaign, branding campaign, social listening, social media marketing, website analytics and so on. Surprisingly, in some cases, we have also found the lack of transparent data availability an added challenge. In other words, businesses do not know how their investment is impacting their brand.

3. The ad fraud fight is getting dirtier each day with up to 40 per cent of the investments going down the drain. I hear many businesses talking about using multiple tools to fight ad fraud but the implementation turns out to be a tool that reports ad fraud numbers instead of a consolidated effort to reduce it by corrective steps.

Improved measurement means that businesses can reduce the investment by at least 30 per cent. This is in line with the fight against ad fraud. That's a savings of a whopping $450 Million dollars or INR 3,000 Cores, which Indian businesses need not spend on advertising. A better measurement structure will also give us better optimisation opportunities for business, leading to increased business realisation from the investments.

When we talk about measurement, businesses start thinking about activities post the campaign. In digital, with the complex way it works, a better measurement framework has to start from the top, start much before the campaign and go all the way to the last mile optimisation. At 30,000 feet, businesses should be aware of the following to bring in better measurement standards:-

A change in culture

Having understood that digital is the future, businesses are hopping onto the digital bandwagon head-on. Everyone is interested in the high number of views, clicks and engagement not realising that everything can be fudged or bought. It is important for businesses to take stock of where they stand before taking that jump into digital advertising. They need to know the capabilities of the team, the platforms, the IT security and data, as well as understand whether the KPIs are in line with the objectives. Last, but not the least, businesses should stop assuming that digital is a cheap alternative to the traditional medium. In the absence of these, digital advertising would be going down the drain.

The Right Tools

There are tools to track and report data across everything on digital. There are tools to fight ad fraud, to serve ads, social listening, competition tracking, consumer profiling, CRM, viewability, social media marketing, search, IT security, website and mobile analytics and so on. Businesses should understand that some are free and some are paid and decide on the tool only by doing a SWOT analysis as against picking up only free tools.

Managed Service

It is seen that a majority of businesses believe that investing in tools is the solution. The truth is, these tools only track and report; they do not give you a course correction. They do not give you the intelligence to take corrective steps. Until ML or AI kicks in, the only way optimisation can be done using these tools is to invest in people who can make sense of the outputs. In other words, convert small data into actionable insights.


There is a possibility that in spite of everything mentioned above, businesses will not find success in the measurement game. This is because they may not have created guidelines or a manual for digital which becomes the North Star for any investment in digital. The guidelines should cover every aspect of Paid, Owned and Earned media and every time the business is at the crossroads of uncertainty, it's these very guidelines that will come to the rescue.

What businesses face is a chicken and egg situation at the moment. The investments in digital aren't large enough to pinch yet or to put in an exponentially higher amount of time and effort. This is also the reason why briefs are typically about getting X million views or engagements that can easily be shown to the management as opposed to what it can do for the business. I only hope that by the time businesses realise this, it won't be too late.

(The author is founder and chief executive officer, What Clicks, a digital media audit and strategy firm)

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