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Setting Objectives and Success Measures

  |  August 31, 2005   |  Comments

Don't fall into the trap of tracking and reporting everything but the kitchen sink. Follow these simple guidelines to set realistic success measures and eliminate second-guessing.

"What if" scenarios are a natural part of media planning. What if we substituted site X for Y? What if we converted more standard ads into video? What if we included more email in the mix? And chances are you'll be asked to defend your site recommendation, as there's invariably a client's friend at one Web site or another.

These questions underscore the importance of setting up clear campaign objectives and corresponding success metrics. Establishing these up at the start of the process and getting client sign-off prior to plan development is probably one of the smartest things you can do. There are quite a few pitfalls in the process of setting success measures and adhering to them, however.

Lack of Focus: Data Overload

There's no shortage of data points you can collect during a campaign. The key is to identify the relevant metrics and avoid the temptation to show more information than necessary. If everyone is on board with focusing the campaign on qualitative brand-oriented objectives, for example, there's no reason to show CTR (define) and CPC (define). They simply confuse the issue. Likewise, if a campaign is focused on a specific quantitative goal, such as CPA (define) or cost per sale, focus on those metrics as opposed to providing time spent with a rich media ad unit or the percentage of completed video plays.

You Can't Please Everyone

Marketers are organizationally complex. No two are the same. Yet in many instances we've seen marketers create separate divisions for direct marketing/e-commerce and more traditional mass-media communications. This separation sometimes creates an undue strain on the interactive plan. Because of interactive media's ability to create awareness, engagement, and action, you get an interesting debate early in the process. Which group do you listen to? Can you satisfy all parties sufficiently? Probably not.

This debate is typically solved by identifying the funding source. Those who provide the money typically dictate the metrics and measurement plan.

Involve Market Research Early and Often

We learned this one the hard way. Most large marketers have internal research groups that run longitudinal brand tracking studies, sales analysis, and so on. If you plan to conduct a significant research study, consult the marketer's research team early in the process. Undoubtedly, they'll have thoughts about the vendor to use (e.g., Insight Express, Millward Brown, Dynamic Logic, Factor TG, IRI, Nielsen, comScore, etc.) as well as the questionnaire.

Fail to involve market research early in the process and you jeopardize the study. It's important to ask questions that are meaningful in light of other research conducted, as well as allow results to be compared with other media studies.

Data Frequency Should Be Commensurate With Objectives

Sometimes, it's important to conduct rigorous monitoring and optimization. But real-time or daily optimization is overkill in most instances. Spell out tracking regularity with the client early in the process to ensure you're on the same data and analysis page. Weekly or biweekly tracking typically allows enough time to be able to draw statistically sound conclusions. Monthly tracking is usually used to ensure media delivery is progressing at a uniform rate. Make sure data regularity is in sync with campaign objectives.

Another particularly valuable piece of learning: prior to campaign launch, agree on what success looks like. If the campaign goal is brand-oriented, spell out the results you're looking for (e.g., preference lift over 2 percent, results in the top 25 percentile compared to other marketers, etc.). Early in the process, state what steps will be taken if you achieve or fail to achieve specified results.

Too often, we track and report on everything but the kitchen sink. Most data are irrelevant to our clients' business; we report because we can. Don't fall into that trap. By following these simple guidelines, you can set realistic success measures and eliminate any second-guessing during campaign stewardship.

Clear objectives and success measures are a plan's most important elements. Nail them, and you'll have a successful program and a happy marketer.


David Cohen Before joining Universal McCann Interactive, David Cohen was North America media director at Zentropy Partners. At UM Interactive, he plays a pivotal role in integrating interactive media into clients' overall marketing and media plans. David oversees all interactive media strategy, including planning, buying and analysis operations in the New York office. Current client responsibilities include: Wendy's International, Johnson & Johnson, Sony Electronics, Marriott International and Bacardi. David is active in many industry organizations and speaks frequently at seminars and lectures for the Advertising Club of New York and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's).

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