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P&G marketing VP Sophie Blum: 'measurement is the challenge ahead'

Procter & Gamble is the biggest advertiser in the world with designs on a digitally-led future, and its marketing function very much at the core of this transformation. And with a media budget exceeding $8.5bn annually, a well as ever-increasing investments in digital media, measurement as to the effectiveness of its online campaigns is crucial.

Speaking with The Drum, Sophie Blum, the vice president of marketing for Procter & Gamble’s EMEA and India region, voiced her belief that the increasingly fragmented digital landscape poses the entire media industry with a key challenge it must collectively rise to meet.

On the sidelines of this month's Dmexco conference, the marketer told The Drum she believes her brand has a part to play in creating a “common language and a common kind of metric” that will aid both client and agency players in the digital space.

One particular source of chagrin to the P&G marketing department is the challenge of deduplication, when it comes to targeting online ads, and measuring whether the were served to the desired audience.

Failure to tackle this challenge properly can lead to phenomena whereby advertisers effectively ‘over-serve’ users with ads, with the same creative over and over again.

There is a myriad of reasons why this can happen – from in adequate frequency capping by campaign managers, to using poor quality data sets – but increasingly the problems lie within the industry’s walled gardens, ie online platforms such as Amazon, Facebook and Google that offer little or no insight to third parties, and advertisers themselves.

“The challenge of having multiple digital, and adtech players is about having a common language, and common kind of measurement. The name of the game is deduplication; you want to reach people, but you don’t want to reach the same person 25 times,” Blum told The Drum. “The challenge that’s put in the industry is how to make multiple platforms have a common language. Measurement in our industry is the challenge ahead.”

Yet Blum added she believes it is a problem the digital sphere can overcome in the next few years. “It’s about integrated leadership, it’s about teamwork and it’s about working at an industry level to make sure we are able to drive quality,” she added.

Translucency, and Facebook

The commentary comes at a pertinent time; Facebook’s recent admission that it artificially inflated its video view times by 60 to 80 per cent set off transparency alarm bells in offices across adland, and further amplified the problems of walled garden set-ups. Serendipitously, one week before the news, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong spoke of his aversion to closed-off platform metrics.

In fact, P&G’s recent pullback from targeted Facebook ads was in-part prompted by the narrowness of its targeting, with the conglomerate noting that it had “targeted too much and went too narrow”, when positing that marketers are increasingly demanding better metrics on the effectiveness of digital.

Blum took the opportunity to set the record straight on the Facebook debacle while at Dmexco. She said: “we didn’t reduce any specific Facebook investment.”

She continued: “We are a FMCG company. We are in business to reach consumers. We learn where they are, what they consume and how they interact with their different platforms, and Facebook – especially in Europe – is a wonderful platform to have a mass reach. We’ve been partnering [with them], we continue to partner.

“It’s about how you leverage this mass and potentially enhance some aspect of that with targeting. But it’s not about small pieces of targeting.”

Raising the bar

While Blum is among the faction of marketers hoping for a consolidated digital metric, she also believes that industry bodies – either new or current – are not the answer to the creation of one. Instead she believes in the power of commercial comradery rooted in self-preservation.

“When you’re a player like [P&G] we owe it to ourselves – as do media and agencies – to raise the bar,” she said. “It’s true for creativity, it’s true for media and now it’s true about measurement.”

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