Drifting Away from the Realities of the Media Business

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iStock_000000736447XSmall.jpgThe IAB loves Doug Weaver. Our members love Doug Weaver. Doug speaks at our conferences. I personally have nothing but the highest regard for Doug and have agreed with much of what he has written and said over the years.

Last week, he wrote a surprising piece in his blog, The Drift. The piece entitled, “The Myth of Digital Measurement” is well written, but stunningly out of synch with the realities of competitive media selling - and ignorant of the work the industry is successfully prosecuting to make measurement make sense.

Doug builds his argument on four “facts.” Unfortunately, it is his facts that contain myths. Let me detail his errors- and then tell you how a united marketing and media industry, led by the IAB, the ANA, and the 4A’s, are going about addressing marketers’ need for actionable measurement standards in digital media.

In his blog posting earlier last week, Weaver argued that, “Fact One: Digital is Permanently Dynamic. Not only do digital capabilities constantly evolve, but the pace of that evolution is constantly accelerating. Which leads to……Fact Two: ‘Measurement’ Can Never Keep Up”. By Doug’s reasoning, digital media are separate from other media for the long term because their measurement is a myth. This kind of thinking keeps us forever on the experimental lines of big brand ad budgets. Finding a way for brand advertisers to evaluate digital media in terms they understand and can use to justify investments, by definition, does not either stop or deny innovation nor dynamism.

In “Fact Three”, Doug writes about being onto the next things as soon as something becomes stable enough to be measured in a scalable way. And, he links that to commoditization. The reason other media, particularly television, have avoided commoditization is because they built simple, transparent currencies for the basics and then dedicated resources and creativity to proving why a rating point was not equal all the time in every piece of content.

Commoditization happens when you lose sight of how to prove value. In a world of intangible goods and services and make no mistake, the selling of advertising and the placing of it are intangibles, the smart money is on differentiation through measurement. Without a baseline, you cannot be different or better than something else. Metrics determine benchmarks and baselines against which to differentiate and to do so in transparent degrees of magnitude. Differentiation permits markets to ascribe higher and lower value.

In his “Fact Four” Doug makes the point that “Measurement Supports What We Already Want to Do” and he mentions that marketers use research for support rather than illumination. Perhaps that is true for some. I have seen quite the opposite since the IAB, ANA, and 4A’s launched “Making Measurement Make Sense”, facilitated by the consulting firm Bain & Company and the strategic advisory firm MediaLink. I have been in the room with marketers who believe in digital media’s power to build brands, marketers who want insights and want to understand how to use digital media better. These are not people looking to substantiate dusty old models; these are people who want tools to show that innovation pays.

Had Doug looked into Making Measurement Make Sense and had he talked to either the IAB, the ANA or the 4A’s about the who, what, when and how of this groundbreaking collaboration, he would have been pleasantly surprised. More than 40 senior executives, business leaders, functional experts and thought leaders, from across the ecosystem, have come together to define metrics and currency that facilitate cross platform transactions and also to identify the metrics that put value on elements of interactivity that contribute to building brands. Moreover, the fundamental underpinning of this initiative is to develop a structure for a measurement governance body that will manage change, develop standards, and provide a rapid mechanism for cross ecosystem business needs to be addressed by measurement systems.

Doug, dear colleague, please rethink how measurement, currencies and markets work in disruptive times.

Sherrill Mane is Senior Vice President, Industry Services, at the IAB.

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