OPINION15 April 2021

The challenges inhibiting marketing measurement

Data analytics Media Opinion Trends UK

We have more knowledge than ever on what effectiveness means in the modern media landscape, but Hattie Whiting says that too often marketers are measuring what is easily accessible, not what really matters.


The advertising and marketing industries have been concerned with measuring the effectiveness of campaigns for many years.

Data is key to planning, delivering and measuring campaigns, but the exponential growth of data sources in recent years has only further complicated the quest for these answers.

Measuring media effectiveness is an area of the planning cycle profoundly affected by the volume of data organisations deal with today. If marketers are to measure incremental campaign effects accurately and without bias they must plan, deliver and optimise advertising measurement more effectively using a system everyone understands.

To help, the Data and Marketing Association recently launched the ‘Making Measurement Meaningful’ whitepaper, which outlined six fundamental challenges that continue to inhibit the measurement of marketing effectiveness.

These were identified by a panel of industry experts, including representatives from Channel 4, Dentsu Aegis, FT, Global, Kinetic Worldwide, Telegraph Media Group, and The Ozone Project, with the discussion led by me and Ian Gibbs, founder of Data Stories Consulting.

This isn’t a new area for discussion. A series of ground-breaking studies have helped marketers dig deeper into the planning decisions that are required to maximise campaign impact and business growth. From Field and Binet’s The Long and the Short of It, to Field and Hurman’s The Effectiveness Code and Dr Grace Kite’s The Wrong and Real of It, we have more knowledge than ever on what effectiveness means in the modern media landscape.

Yet gaps remain. There’s an increasing sense that brand and direct response are being unfairly played off against each other, rather than the industry exploring their mutual benefits in full. In addition, short and long-term effectiveness are often presented as a binary either/or option.

Not only that, but marketers are frequently measuring the performance of campaigns, without evaluating their true value. Too often marketers are measuring what is easily accessible, not what really matters to the business.

Some of the challenges outlined in this DMA whitepaper are arguably deep-rooted and structural. Many are simply due to a lack of industry consensus about how to measure effectiveness.

We believe that the six challenges inhibiting meaningful measurement are:

  1.     A disconnect between brand and response measurement: Siloed thinking and a fragmented agency landscape mean there’s often little acknowledgement or systematic measurement of the combined effects of brand and direct response spend. This results in an inconsistent view of short and long- term campaign impact.
  2.     Measuring the impact of quality: A focus on less meaningful effectiveness data points has led to quality media environments being undervalued on media plans. Advertisers suffer from poorer return on marketing investment (ROMI) and media owners suffer financially.
  3.     A measurement framework for all: The use of measurement frameworks, which help businesses create a common understanding of how to measure campaign impact in a way that links to business objectives, is far from commonplace. Widespread adoption of measurement frameworks will help the industry overcome many of the communication challenges inherent in measurement.
  4.     Measurement across platforms: Establishing best practice in measuring ad effectiveness across channels, and between digital walled gardens and the rest of the media ecosystem, is vital to boost understanding of the true incremental effects of media investment.
  5.     Structural challenges in measurement: Advertiser in-housing and siloed measurement skills are hampering attempts to establish a consistent view of effectiveness across marketing spend.
  6.     Optimising metrics that matter: With a huge volume of real-time digital campaign delivery metrics at their fingertips, marketers are often guilty of focusing on and optimising what they can measure, rather than what they should. Best practice use of first-party data and brand measurement for campaign optimisation are important industry aspirations.

As a community, we should focus on the metrics that drive business success. To make our campaigns more effective, we must start speaking the same language and being consistent with metrics and benchmarking across all media channels.

The DMA has always admired – and awarded – marketing with a laser focus on aligning customer needs to business outcomes. The Media Council is now taking the lead to debate fundamental measurement challenges which still exist. Part of our mission is to help brands and agencies establish a common language and set of benchmarks to measure effectiveness.

The DMA is also building a new databank that uses insights based on years of DMA Awards entries and the knowledge contained within them. The databank will help to inspire future solutions to many of the problems highlighted in this whitepaper.

Hattie Whiting is chair of the DMA’s Media Council.