Advertisers need to stop philosophising and actually score goals

By Mairi Clark, Staff

December 8, 2015 | 4 min read

There is a famous Monty Python sketch entitled “The Philosopher’s Football Match” that depicts a football match between well-known Greek and German philosophers. The punchline is that as soon as the game starts, rather than attempting to kick the ball into their opponent’s net the distinguished philosophers wander around the pitch pondering and theorizing whilst a bemused Franz Beckenbauer (the only genuine footballer on the pitch) looks on.

Damien Bennett of NMP

Damien Bennett

Those of us that have worked in digital marketing for long enough know that at times our own industry can reflect “The Philosopher’s Football Match,” with lots of theorizing and debate, but often little action. A prime example of this is the way advertisers choose to measure and attribute channel performance.

When attending industry events, it’s almost impossible to meet anyone who is an advocate for the use of the “last click wins” attribution model, especially one that does not effectively de-dupe against other online channels. Yet many organisations are still reliant on this flawed model to make fundamental marketing decisions around media selection and creative.

What has happened more recently is a general agreement amongst advertisers that advertisements used to drive awareness cannot be effectively measured by conversion-related metrics. Instead they have become more comfortable making assumptions based on softer, behavioural related metrics such as new sessions; visits per impression and brand search volumes. This contentment that not all forms of marketing will drive direct results has been one of the leading forces behind the recent surges in display and video advertising spend.

Where marketers are understandably less certain is the middle ground between awareness and conversion commonly referred to as “mid-funnel”. Whilst behavioural assumptions can be made for media used to drive awareness and the ‘last click wins’ attribution model can be used to assess channel conversion effectiveness, it is much more difficult to understand and crucially convey the relative importance of what sits in between.

This has been one of the most important factors in the relatively slow uptake in paid social advertising from the advertising industry. There can be no question that advertisers understand the potential of paid social, and the opportunity it presents to aid customer referrals, but the stumbling block for many is still that moment when they have to present the results to their boss.

The opportunities that paid social presents in enhancing brand conversation demonstrates that advertisers can no longer accept an attribution model that does not exhibit the role that middle ground media plays in a customer journey. Facebook’s phenomenal usage and engagement statistics, such as being the second most visited website in the UK and the website that people spend the most time on, should make it a no-brainer for most advertisers however, without proof of investment, advertisers do not have the confidence to make paid social a key part of their media strategy.

So this article does not amble into becoming a theoretical piece akin to the “Philosopher’s Football Match”, I offer advertisers three steps that they must take from today:

  1. Find a tracking solution that allows for a full view of the customer journey across different online media channels and creative.
  2. Tag up all online media from display campaigns to paid search activity.
  3. After sixty days of having this solution in place, analyse and assess the customer’s most frequent paths to purchase and refine media selections and creative messaging based on what is found.

It’s the time for us advertisers to start behaving less like Socrates the philosopher and more like Socrates the Brazilian footballer, a player with the intelligence to have earned a doctorate in medicine, but who was also capable of putting the ball in his opponent’s goal.

Damien Bennett is head of strategy at NMP (formerly Net Media Planet)


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