The movement toward outcome-based metrics is not an entirely new phenomenon. For two decades, there has been a slow and steady transfer of marketing budgets from metrics-deprived mainstream media, such as broadcast TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers (known in marketing as “above-the-line” media) to direct marketing and promotions (“below-the-line” media), for which it has been possible to track results with greater accuracy. Until recently, many observers dismissed the growth in below-the-line spending as a trend driven largely by retailers, who, they said, were using trade promotions to gain a greater share of the huge marketing budgets of major consumer packaged goods companies. That has been true to some extent, but the spending shift from above-the-line to below-the-line advertising is better explained by the fact that marketers can more easily measure and prove the value of below-the-line spending.
The new form of outcome-based metrics combines the experience from below-the-line media with technological innovations in measurement, especially involving television. Not all media can, or ever will, match the direct-response metrics of Google. But the broad evolution of these new, more granular, more precise metrics will drive profound changes in the practice and culture of marketing and brand advertising in all media.
New technologies will support a shift in audience measurement from estimates to data that is closer to (and in some cases is) actual census data — in other words, to real rather than projected results. For example, Nielsen Media Research, the reigning master of television viewing measures, has traditionally captured home television viewing data from 12,000 households (a tiny sliver of the estimated 112 million U.S. households with televisions) and then used that sample to project ratings for the whole country. Instead, in the not-too-distant future, set-top boxes and other devices built into digital television systems will provide data on every consumer viewing choice related to both programming and commercials. Marketers will ultimately have access to media and advertising response information that will be similar in granularity and comprehensiveness to the data captured today at the retail point of sale.
Today, Nielsen is investing heavily in an ambitious “Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement” cross-platform initiative designed to increase the scale and accuracy of its consumer sample. This initiative will move more deeply into online, outdoor, and in-store media, and strengthen the quality of its TV-derived data. At the same time, players such as IAG Research and TNS Media Intelligence are launching innovative alternatives. Before long, data will be gathered from mobile meters that track out-of-home television viewing — from Internet video downloads and streams and from videos viewed on PDAs cell phones, MP3 players, and other portable devices.
In this increasingly dynamic environment, new outcome-focused metrics will shift the focal point of all advertising measurement from exposure to results. These metrics will include:
Commercial Ratings: Viewership of advertisements rather than programming, consumer retention of commercial messages, the impact of positions in pods (sequences of commercials that air during a single programming break), and the overall design of pods.
Session Quality and Engagement: The ads recalled per session or visit, time spent per session or visit, average sessions per user, and strength of brand recall.
Total Viewing Behavior: The number of consumers and their total time spent accessing media brands via both offline and online platforms (a metric that is especially relevant for traditional media companies trying to increase their digital presence and for marketers who want to compare digital to traditional consumer behavior).
Opt-in Activity: Online registrations, open rates, toll-free calls, and online and offline requests for more information.
Consumer Participation: Indicators of viral activity, such as pass-along and referral rates; levels of interaction with branded content, such as uploads of brand content to personal sites; and length of branded interaction.
Sales Impact: Leads generated, store traffic, and volume lift at retail stores.