Advertising tracking research often returns results that don't help marketers: it can take months for tracking numbers to change significantly and even when they do, they provide little insight into why they went up or down. Here are three things you can do today to get more from advertising tracking research tomorrow.
Pretty much every large-sized company and a good portion of medium-sized ones use advertising tracking research to keep running tabs on different campaigns and programs to gauge how well they might be doing. After all, to quote a quote from Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master:
"For years, corporate marketers have walked into budget meetings like neighborhood junkies. They couldn’t always justify how well they spent past handouts or what difference it all made. They just wanted more money—for flashy TV ads, for big ticket events, for, you know, getting out the message and building up the brand. But those heady days of blind budget increases are fast being replaced with a new mantra: measurement and accountability."
Though companies often invest sizeable dollars into advertising tracking research, the results that come back often don’t help marketers when it comes to making changes, modifications, and enhancements to improve ROI. For starters, the tracking numbers usually don’t change significantly from one time period (typically quarterly) to the next. Even when the numbers do change, they provide little insight into why they went up or down. Worse, what’s going on with the ad tracking numbers seems to happen irrespective of whether the sales numbers go up or down.
No wonder so many CMOs regard tracking studies as not particularly actionable. Here are three things you can do today to get more from advertising tracking research tomorrow:
1. Downsize your ad metrics.
Instead of looking at 25 different "awareness" metrics—unaided and aided brand awareness, unaided and aided ad awareness, unaided and aided message registration, and many more—we recommend developing a single measure that we call campaign penetration which incorporates most of the traditional measures into a single metric.
The advantage to using campaign penetration is that instead of having a bunch of numbers that fluctuate seemingly at random from one quarterly tracking study to the next, you get one number that tells you how a campaign is doing at generating “real” awareness of your brand and its key brand message. It also gives you a much better handle on a campaign’s impact on sales.
2. Get a read on exposure.
Ask respondents media exposure questions and use the answers to produce estimates of individual-level GRPs. Using this novel approach, you can break out respondents who were highly exposed to the campaign, moderately exposed, and hardly exposed at all. Typically you’d only get this kind of hard data from in–market experimentation.
Understanding exposure can help you in a variety of ways. For instance, there’s the check on the performance of the media plan. If most key target customers fall into the “hardly exposed” at all group, that’s a big problem. It also helps diagnose the problem if campaign penetration starts to fall. Was it a matter of exposure?
3. Cross the digital divide.
Blog analysis has become a very popular tool with marketers in an attempt to understand what consumers are saying and how they’re feeling about a brand. For a variety of reasons ranging from the separation of functional areas to different metrics, the results are not integrated with the information coming out of traditional ad tracking. If the idea is to get as comprehensive a read on what is (and isn’t) working as possible, traditional and digital need to come together.
For example, if you just launched a new campaign, blog analysis could offer early warning insights into potential problems. Did online buzz about the brand increase? How about mentions of the new campaign? Did chatter include anything on the key brand message?
Remember, a good monitoring system not only tells you how you are doing, but also what you need to do in order to do even better. You’ve got to think about what you’d like to know, in what time frame, and what kind of information you need in order to make sure you can use the results of advertising tracking research to improve the performance of your marketing programs.
Recommended reading: 50+ Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master, Chapter 9: Advertising Media and Web Metrics