Independent Measurement is Critical for Advertiser Confidence: Q&A with Imran Khan, xAd

In association with xAd

Digital attribution implemented and utilised successfully is oft talked about, yet seldom seen. Are we, as an industry, starting to take measurement seriously and utilise the data we have at our fingertips effectively? Imran Khan (pictured below), head of programmatic, xAd, explains to ExchangeWire that measurement and attribution have come a long way and we are seeing success across many areas, but the best is hopefully yet to come.

ExchangeWire: The advent of digital marketing was supposed to solve all the previous challenges of measurement and attribution – has it achieved this goal?

Imran Khan: Yes and no. Digital advertising came with a lot of promises: better targeting, improved attribution, higher performance, greater effectiveness, the list goes on. It’s fair to say that digital has come some way to solving these needs; but it hasn’t delivered on these promises in the way we expected. For example, I recently bought a new pair of Edwin Jeans online after searching a few websites over the period of about a week. After making my purchase, I continued to receive multiple retargeted ads for the same product, that I had no intention of buying again. This goes to show that, although digital marketing has come a long way, there is still a lot of work required with regards to achieving the goals it set out to do.

What is stopping us from achieving the utopia of measurement?

Success in the industry has often been defined as delivering media impressions; which in itself has been hindered by some of the pervasive topics currently discussed in the industry, such as fraud and viewability. But what marketers really care about is selling more products, whether that be toothpaste, detergent, or jeans. The current state of play makes it challenging to understand how media spend has performed. This is made more difficult by the industry being compounded by walled gardens and digital fragmentation (even if you only referenced the Display Lumascape with companies with USD$100m+ in revenues), further preventing marketers from achieving the utopia of measurement.

Where have we seen success with regards to attribution in digital?

We’ve seen a shift in marketers’ perception of what constitutes an effective campaign – moving away from the traditional CPM model, and a migration to performance advertising. Linking spend to business outcomes is where attribution is most effective, apparent already in Google’s and Facebook’s measurement methods. Brands will move over to performance advertising as marketers continue to realise the importance of measurement. For example, BMW will care more about the amount of test drives they’ve generated as opposed to the amount of users they reached, focusing on business outcomes and tangible results.

Those metrics are very online-focused – can digital solve offline attribution?
measurement attribution

Imran Khan, head of programmatic, xAd

Close to 90% of all retail sales occur offline, increasing the importance of solving offline attribution, mobile is used as the connector to bridge the physical and digital worlds, with location providing the anchor between both worlds. Location is scaled and its use case is extremely common, with 'Near me' Google searches increasing 34 times since 2011 and location-aware apps are set to triple by 2019. The significant increase in the use of location surrounds its ability to improve the user experience and, consequently, lead to a value exchange. Apps like Uber, Tinder, and Pokémon Go are defining the offline/online experience. Over the last few years, this new behaviour has resulted in the exponential growth of the location marketing ecosystem, and more recently the measurement of offline attribution.

How can location help solve offline attribution?

Location can help drive and measure footfall attribution – which can, in-turn, act as a proxy for sale. For example, a person who enters a fast-food location is most likely to be making a purchase, opposed to just going in there to browse the menu, resulting in a post-view metric for mobile. As the space matures, it is possible we will see a scalable metric, such as Store Visitation Rate (SVR) become a basic measurement of offline intent – similar to how click-through-rate (CTR) was popularised by Google as a measure of online intent.

What about getting to the actual sale?

With the advent of technologies, such as Bluetooth and beacons, indoor location has the potential to assist in driving consumers even further down the purchase funnel and toward the actual sale. A question mark remains on the scalability and applicable use cases from an advertising perspective, but only time will tell. Mobile payment solutions, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Square, can in theory help in closing the loop. Credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard have millions of users worldwide, and could similarly help us to better understand the offline sale. Interoperability of disparate platforms and technologies will be required, as well as an understanding of the role location plays in reaching the point of sale. For example, monitoring the amount of people an advertising campaign targeted in a specific location, measuring how many visits the campaign drove and comparing it to the number of sales it resulted in can demonstrate the power of location in connecting online/offline. Although extremely promising, there is still a lot of work to do.

How important is third-party, independent measurement?

Independent measurement is critical in giving marketers and advertisers the confidence to continue to invest in digital. As Sir Martin Sorrell explained at WPP’s recent earnings call, “…we can’t have the players being the referees. There has to be independence in terms of measurement, that is a critical issue”. For an accurate assessment of attribution, having third parties objectively qualifying the insights brands are getting is imperative in creating effective marketing strategies. Looking at location as an example, it’s essential that brands are able to measure the link between mobile campaign delivery and its impact on footfall. To give brands the confidence to invest in this, we partnered with comScore. Putting a independent measurement framework in place is the only way to quantify the value of mobile advertising. As the industry continues to evolve and mature, we are likely to see the growth in independent measurement solutions across both online and offline attribution models.