Digital in detention: can cross-platform measurement help ease industry anguish?

Reflecting on the themes from this year's conference season, it is clear the digital advertising industry still has some work to do to prove its value to marketers.

Ten months on from his provocative rally cry, P&G’s Mark Pritchard stated in his Dmexco keynote that, with digital now a $200bn industry, “we have to stop giving digital media a pass and insist it grow up”.

Similarly, Unilever chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, in his Advertising Week keynote, highlighted cross-platform measurement on his industry report card as something that required immediate attention, stating that “this is necessary to better understand the dynamics between media consumption, and spend, on one media channel, and [how it] can affect consumer behaviour both off- and online”. He went on to insist that a brand should “have the ability to have all its ad campaigns verified by third-party measurement providers in order to demonstrate the ROI of its ever-growing digital media investment.”

I don’t believe these comments are intended to diminish digital’s place on the media plan. Rather, it reflects the fact that savvy brand marketers are now far more attuned to what is possible in digital – and what is still lacking. It recognises digital’s true potential for brand building and driving purchase intent. Advertisers just crave more robust measurement to prove this is the case, so they can optimise their media mix, for both reach and frequency, across all media channels and devices.

In our recently released ‘Cross-Platform Ad Effectiveness Norms Database’, we’ve demonstrated that consumers exposed to ads across multiple devices record brand and ad awareness metric improvements of up to +9% higher than those who are exposed on just one device.

It is evident that retargeting digital campaigns at users across mobile, tablet and desktop devices can reap huge rewards when delivered with sequential creative messaging; while increased use of responsive cross-device ad formats points to a world where marketers can target campaigns at consumers with an “always on” mindset – delivering messaging that is most appropriate according to location, time of day and media context.

On average, consumers exposed to ads on multiple devices record an improvement in brand awareness of +21% vs a single device exposure average of +12%. Similarly, a multiplier effect is noted for both top-of-mind brand awareness (+11% vs +7%) and online ad recall (+8% vs +4%).

We also found, in our most recent ‘Path-to-Purchase Tracker’, that as many UK smartphone owners now watch paid on-demand TV via their smartphone as watch it via their TV set, bringing the cross-device convergence of more traditional forms of media consumption and digital full-circle. This talks directly to Weed’s concerns regarding marketers’ ability to understand the dynamics between TV and digital.

Where digital consumers go, so digital ad measurement must follow.

Advocates of Byron Sharp’s theories on how brands grow are fully aware of the importance of expanding the mental availability that consumers have for brands.

Mental availability is built through maximising campaign reach and brand awareness. The clear impact that cross-device campaigns are having on top-of funnel awareness metrics should be a key consideration for digital marketers looking to drive brand metric improvements.

Combining this type of insight with measurement capabilities that deploy mobile geo-location data, to assess the impact that digital spend can have on physical availability in stores, will further enhance cross-device reporting and digital transparency.

With brands now demanding that digital works even harder to prove its efficacy, it’s time for cross-platform measurement to become the norm for all media campaigns. Perhaps then digital can return to being the A* student it should really be.

Alistair Hill is chief executive of On Device Research

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