‘Reach is a vanity metric’: Diageo global senior brand manager Neil Shah talks future of video

Neil Shah, Diageo’s global senior brand manager for Smirnoff

Diageo, home to global liquor brands including Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Baileys, is no stranger to TV advertising. But the continued fragmentation of the media landscape has forced the liquor giant to reconsider how it measures success with TV campaigns and what metrics it values.

Neil Shah, Diageo’s global senior brand manager for Smirnoff, said at The Drum’s Video Futures event that he considers reach - long the gold standard for TV measurement - to be nothing more than a vanity metric.

“TV is still a very important channel for us because it gets us unparalleled reach,” Shah said. “But with the phrase ‘unparalleled reach,’ I think there lies the paradox. It’s the paradox that reach is really, from my point of view, a vanity metric. When we’re using reach to understand how many people are seeing our ads that we’re running, especially on cable TV, fundamentally we do not know if they are actually engaging with the ad.”

According to a 2015 Accenture report, 87% of consumers also use their smartphone, tablet, game console, e-book or laptop while watching TV. Considering most people are perusing a second screen while watching TV, Shah thinks advertisers should try and do more to tie the two experiences together rather than bank on full attention.

It’s a strategy that Smirnoff employed not too long ago when it rolled out a Shazam-enabled TV campaign for its Sorbet Light line of vodkas. When viewers Shazam’d the spot, the song’s artist came up along with cocktail recipes for the alcohol at hand.

“Consumers are receiving thousands of brand messages a day. As we reframe what TV is about, how can we rethink what utility a brand can offer a consumer rather than just interrupting their household with a 30-second spot?” Shah said.

While Smirnoff is still investing in more “traditional” TV campaigns - last year, it aired a handful of cheeky spots starring model Chrissy Tiegen and actor Ted Danson - Shah said the brand is looking at platforms that provide it with stronger metrics.

He pointed to Smirnoff’s recent collaboration with Spotify, which rolled out ahead of International Women’s Day this year. Called the Smirnoff Equalizer, the Spotify tool provided users with a percentage breakdown of the number of men versus women artists they have listened to in the past six months. For those whose listening preferences skew male, the Equalizer made users an “equalized” playlist tailored just for them and their music tastes.

“We chose Spotify as a platform not only because it’s a music platform, but because some of the metrics they could guarantee to us around engagement across the interface or playlists generated were more believable than some of the reach and impression things that we’ll see," explained Shah. “The metrics that really matter to me most are those that are grounded in actions and behavior. Spotify, for instance, [is] able to tell me exactly where someone’s mouse is moving around on an experience.”

Yet Shah warned that even the best metrics and measurement systems can’t fix subpar creative, an insight that gets lost easily in a media environment that’s obsessed with tracking and targeting consumers.

“We talk about marketing as being an art or a science, but in reality it’s both. No great raft of metrics or quality ecosystem is going to save you from shit creative,” he said.

The panel discussion was part of The Drum's Video Futures event hosted on May 8. Click here to read coverage of the separate panel where AppNexus and Brightcove detailed their bid to lower video ad load times.

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