Making Measurement Make Sense, Beyond the Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement: A Q&A with Sherrill Mane - IABlog

Making Measurement Make Sense, Beyond the Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement: A Q&A with Sherrill Mane

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To establish the Five Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement and forge ahead to their implementation, the Making Measurement Make Sense cross-industry coalition, composed of IAB, ANA, and 4A’s, and facilitated by management consulting firm Bain & Company as well as the strategic advisory firm MediaLink, is exploring some of the most intriguing issues in the interactive industry today.

Sherrill Mane, SVP Industry Services, IAB, provides a window into the coalition’s strategic thinking, discussing the need to balance the value of cross-media commonalities with interactivity unique to digital media, the role of the research vendors, and how social, search, and mobile fit into the initiative.


Willow Duttge: Now that the Five Guiding Principles of Digital Measurement are defined, what actions should publishers, brand marketers, and agencies take today to be ready for the changes?

Sherrill Mane: They should begin examining the ramifications of change that are coming because that’s what we’re doing. Now that there are principles and there are solutions embedded in those principles, those solutions are being vetted and tested. We need to understand the impact of the changes and set up as smooth a transition as possible. I’d love to wave my magic wand and make it all happen. I think at the end of the process, we’re going to have a better ecosystem, be more transparent, and have better ways to evaluate good inventory and bad inventory. Price elasticity and inventory differentiation will be possible. The improvements in metrics and currencies will enhance the credibility of transactions and streamline the selling and buying of the ads in a cross-platform world.

WD: How do you protect the value of interactivity as you emphasize the need for measurement commonalities with traditional media?

SM: Interactivity can’t have a metric in common with static media. By definition, static ads are not interactive. While we are going for comparability across media with GRPs, we also have to be careful and consider how interactivity is associated with brand building. You need a fundamental currency, and then you need metrics to assess the interactive portion. The interactive portion is always going to be something that’s unique to interactive. But as other media evolve, they’re going to have interactive metrics as well. It is therefore, even more important that as we work through the intricacies of interactivity metrics, we view everything through the prism of the future of all media. The solutions we develop today should serve us well tomorrow.

A big breakthrough, in terms of commonality, is for everyone to have agreed on a viewable impression, because the viewable impression can also incorporate duration. It’s the amount of real estate visible and the time you stay there. And that takes you to cross-platform measurement.

WD: Do you think the emphasis on viewable impressions will inspire change in the way websites and ads are designed?

SM: Yes, it should. But it’s not just about the viewable impression. It’s all the other things that we’re doing to make the advertising quality and environment more appealing to the consumer. If advertising is going to work, it’s going to work because it appeals to consumers. It’s not about data analytics. It’s about the magic that occurs when the consumer gets the ads. If creative is not working well, then consumers are not going to be heavily involved with the messages no matter how good the environment is. Metrics have to show what works in a way that the industry can believe in.

WD: Does Making Measurement Make Sense apply to social media and search?

SM: We’re not changing the fundamentals of search. They are not going to be transformed here, that’s direct response, and we’re talking about brand advertising. But if seeing an ad is somehow correlated with search activity, that’s an interactive process that applies. For example, to buy a car everyone does research online. You’re on the Internet and you see an ad, and that ad leads you to search activity. Metrics must illustrate: Where does it lead? How does it help you to build a brand? It’s the same thing with social. Social media has elements to it that can only happen in social, but that’s really just interactive.

What we’re trying to avoid is getting into the trap of counting the number of “likes” and not understanding what “likes” really mean, because it’s different for every brand, every ad, and every context. Making absolute counts be the answer is the same trap that clicks got us in. We need to find out: What does social activity around ads mean? We can’t go the route of stupid, simple, easy.

WD: As mobile marketing develops, how will its unique opportunities become incorporated into Making Measurement Make Sense?

SM: We’re looking at creating a structure for a measurement governance body, and that group will be responsible for seeing that change management evolves in a timely way. That group will also see to it that standards are implemented correctly. That’s a big piece. It could be like an MRC on steroids.

WD: What role do research vendors have in the Making Measurement Make Sense initiative?

SM: While they aren’t directly part of the process, they’re stakeholders, and we’re consulting all stakeholders. We’re not, however, letting them make decisions. Leadership from brands, agencies, and publishers are participating in this, and they recognize that metrics are not solely a research problem, they are a business problem. Any overarching changes to measurement and metrics must be made strategically based on common sense, common practice and where necessary, rigorous science. Making Measurement Make Sense is structured this way because it is meant to strategically reconfigure the way we do business at the highest level. It is not a research RFP. Some research vendors, though, do have plans for new products that fit where we’re going.

Willow Duttge is a writer/marketing consultant for the IAB. She can be reached through

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