Priority No. 1: Cross-Media Measurement

Some day, it will be possible to track exposure to every ad on TV, radio, and the Internet and to correlate that exposure (among those who opt in) with consumer attitudes and purchase behavior. Then we will know which combination of ads increases sales and how to most cost-effectively schedule advertising across media. In other words, we will know how advertising works.

We’re not there yet. Today, we can only efficiently track ad exposure on the Internet. TV and radio will have to wait until the broadcast spectrum completely gives way to the cable modem.

But in the meantime, there is a crying need for ways to evaluate advertising across media using existing tools. Advertisers want to know which media are most effective for their objectives — and the online advertising industry wants to prove that advertising on the Internet is worthwhile.

Current ways of evaluating cross-media advertising are either prohibitively expensive or aren’t sensitive enough to measure paltry online advertising spending. This makes it hard for advertisers to compare their online and offline media investments.

Developing ways to measure advertising across media is the most important goal the online advertising industry faces this year. It’s not an easy one to meet. To make cross-media measurement a reality, we have to avoid these pitfalls:

  • Cheerleading the Net. It’s easy to come up with research designed to prove that the Internet is more effective than television. But that’s not the point. The goal must be to develop valid, methodologically sound approaches that advertisers will accept. It’s not about proving the Internet works; it’s about highlighting its strengths in the media mix.
  • Conflating objectives. No medium is “better,” or more effective, than another. It all depends on objectives. The point is not to determine which medium is best, but how various platforms can meet the specific needs of a campaign.
  • Forgetting synergy. A good media plan should be worth more than the sum of its parts. Cross-media measurement should not only show the effectiveness of various parts of the mix but also measure how effective they are in working together.

Most of the people I talk to at conferences and on discussion lists seem to agree that cross-media measurement is a priority. But it’s complicated, and there are divergent strategies for attacking the problem. The opportunity is enormous; the biggest risk is doing nothing.

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