The digital advertising industry grew quickly on the back of claimed delivery, ‘claimed’ being the operative word. Impressions were considered the evidence of ad views, with a majority of search engine advertising fees based on these numbers.

The issue was, and still is, that just because an ad is placed on a particular webpage, there is no evidence that it was actually seen by all the people who visited the site. The likelihood is that the visitors completely ignored the ad, focusing on the content instead.

After all, when was the last time you intentionally clicked on an ad? What was the last ad you actually noticed online? Both questions will likely leave you puzzled, but I bet if you were asked to recall one of the ads you saw while watching TV last night, you wouldn’t have the same issue.

The difference is, advertising is a part of TV. A bit like making sure you’re there to see the new film trailers at the movies, it’s often a very enjoyable experience, which tends to be the complete opposite to online banner and pop up ads.

Measuring sales

However, on the opposite side marketers see data, making every action taken by an individual online trackable, from every page view to every click in a way we just don’t see on TV. In reality, though, there’s almost too much data, making it a complex task to sift through it all and find the touchpoints that really matter.

In a sense digital media has become a victim of its own accountability – but it’s also having a marked impact on the way we view and rate success across other channels, as it’s given us an obsession with the measurement of direct sales.

The rules of this game make it easy for those focused on the lower end of the funnel, digital-only marketing. This is because, with the exception of social channels, when you’re online it’s often to do something specific, like research flight prices or do a bit of online shopping. Typically, you know where you’re heading and what you’re there for.

As a result, it’s a need state channel, making you effectively blind to the majority of advertising.

Lack of understanding

Furthermore, we usually don’t navigate to a site by accident. More often than not, above-the-line media would prompt this activity and layering on more and more digital ads at this point can hinder rather than enhance that impact. As a result, digital needs to be lean. It needs to be focused on conversion, and as much investment as possible needs to be made in ATL media to drive awareness, and lower the interaction costs across a consumer’s digital footprint.

A lot of the issues in our industry stem from not understanding this, and it’s what’s driving everything from ad blocking on the consumer-side, to so called ‘mediapalooza’ on the agency-side.

Deep down, we know that since digital has come along, it’s not been integrated into the media plan the way it should have been.

To have any chance of amending this we must take a broader view of measurement, and avoid looking at digital, or any other channel, in a linear fashion. To do this, we need to put less focus on sales and conversions, and start giving above-the-line media the credit it deserves for driving customers online.

Long-term goals

Doing so widens the portion of the consumer journey that you see, which enables you to learn an awful lot more about your brand. It enables the incorporation of other measurement techniques such as economterics. It’s something marketers have been doing for years to understand the contribution of all media channels to sales, but chasing the tail of digital measurement has left it somewhat in the dust – and in turn left marketers with an inability to look at channels cohesively.

What econometrics allows us to do is separate the impact of our marketing, with long-term economic trends. So asking whether a direct marketing promotion generated a sales uplift, or whether a proportion of that growth is part of a long-term trend of increased consumer confidence. This result is the adoption of a long-term and short-term view of a brand – where it started and how it got to its current position, and not just looking at the impact of digital promotions in the last 30- or 90-day cycle.

This has a huge impact on forecasting and planning, and can help us aim for long-term success, as opposed to quick wins. It’s time to reverse the short-termism prompted by digital and remember that although data does and will continue to play a vital role in advertising, we need to underpin this with the marketing basics that we know to hold true – that building a brand across digital channels works – and then use digital as it’s supposed to be, in a lean fashion that enhances the impact of the rest of the media plan.