Understand your spends with digital marketing audit
The evolution of measurement in media started with the two most important metrics: Reach & Frequency.
Here we discuss the evolution of Reach in the Digital ecosystem.
Though it sounds like a simple metric, it is actually one of the most complex one to calculate thanks to the multitude of tools, growth of the internet users, changing ecosystem, emergence of walled gardens, changing landscapes, newer platforms and consumption patterns.
We no longer rely on Browsers. There are apps launched by the top platforms. The two biggest players – Google and Facebook – have their own set of metrics and their advertising platforms have different styles of calculating these metrics.
The Basics: The simplest form of metrics is Impressions, or creatives exposed. Then comes Reach – the number of people exposed to the creatives or communication, across the Internet. Due to data not coming from a single server, there was a need to calculate Unique Reach, where the digital specialists try and de-duplicate the reach data caused by cross visitation, multiple devices, multi-screens, etc and give an estimated number of Unique individuals reached. Most of us are pretty fine with these definitions.
Now here come the complexities.
- Human Vs Bots – the reach calculated above – are they all humans and not machines or bots or scripts? This needs to be verified. There are tools in the market that can help identify the percentage of BOT Traffic.
- Viewable Impressions & Reach – As marketers we agree on the impressions and reach numbers, but was the Viewability taken into consideration? If yes, was the viewable impression percentage adjusted in the reach calculation? Assume the Viewability was 75%, does that mean my reach also reduces by 25%? Or a slightly modified number like say 20% basis the Frequency of the impressions? Because the Viewability tools will provide the results basis impressions and NOT reach. This leads to bigger issues in calculating the reach for a campaign.
- Sound On or Off – In the video campaigns, thanks to certain guidelines, the creatives are always on Mute by default and Un-muting is optional. In such a scenario, should a creative on Mute be counted as an impression? And is that reach even adding any value to the campaign? Publishers will most likely say that they have served it to the right audience and the audience has ignored the creative, hence it still counts as an impression, and it has reached your audience. But as a brand, is it ok to assume that this kind of reach will add to the changes in brand measures for the campaign? Debatable.
- In-Target – thanks to the targeting possibilities, we have evolved so much that some platforms can target a certain individual using their mobile numbers or email IDs. But largely most platforms still target by (a) demographics – age, gender, location; (b) affinity; (c) contextual; and (d) retargeting. Though defining the audience is actually an extremely lengthy process for digital, and is very different from traditional medium, a lot of agencies still go with the traditional definition of their target audience and run campaigns on digital (and in a lot of cases, against the wishes or requests of the agencies involved in planning). That is just one part of the targeting issue. The other challenge is the spillover, incorrect targeting, too broad or too narrow than planned execution, improper ad set-up as well as lack of capability of certain platforms to target correctly. With tools like Nielsen DAR, such targeting issues can be checked and campaigns can be optimized, but all of that comes at a certain cost, which in our opinion makes the campaigns better, efficient and effective.
- Ad-blockers – some experts say that ad blockers are good for advertisers, as it helps them in saving their valuable impressions from being served to users who would have never clicked on the ads if exposed. That’s true for good quality ad blockers. The user would have not clicked on any ads, and hence such an impression is saved for users who have higher chances of clicking, this increasing the efficiency. But the ad blockers that come as browser extensions or pop-up blockers usually don’t stop the ad from being called, they just block the ads from being shown to the user – and hence, the ad gets served and even counted as an impression / reach. Such cases pose a threat to the entire advertising eco-system because of the wasted inventory, just like in case of viewabilty, the non-viewable impressions.
- Tracking – while most of the publishers have tracking by 3rd party tools enabled, we still have a lot of bullies in the market that don’t allow tracking, partially fudged data, or are using archaic methods that doesn’t let these tools to set up and measure anything. A simple example of Twitter – where in most of the tools, the Reach is an assumed number that adds up the follower numbers of a brand, so each tweet is assumed to be seen by all the followers of that person! How cool is that? But is it accurate – No! Only the brand can see the actual reach of its own tweets, whereas for campaigns on twitter – where influencers and #tags were involved, the tools can only provide potential reach. If such big platforms cannot give accurate data, imagine the data integrity of fishy platforms.
- Unique – this is probably the biggest and the most challenging part of reach calculation. As illustrated above, it is very difficult to actually arrive at the Unique reach number. The challenges like platforms, different servers, multiscreen, multi-devices, multiple users sharing devices, public systems, resetting the browser cookies, clearing cache, ad-blockers, and then adding layers of human, audible, in target, track-able, etc makes matters worse, which is why the term “Unique Reach”, in our opinion is something that can only be estimated, with many assumptions for large scale campaigns.
These are serious issues that get ignored, or are not kept on priority, are calculate incorrectly for professional gains – all causing extreme losses to the brands.
Agreed that, currently there are no tools available in the market that can give the actual absolute reach for a campaign that has multiple platforms. But with proper training, education, processes and usage of the right tools, brand and agencies can try to set practices that can help in arriving at the best possible reach figures.
Because hey, no matter how advanced the digital marketing ecosystem is, we as marketers still rely on Reach & Frequency.