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Focus on significant outcomes not insignificant outputs

Is marketing losing its way? Two of the biggest budget global consumer giants P&G and Unilever, led by Marc Pritchard and Keith Weed, their respective marketing chiefs, have been on a crusade to focus on what matters, clean up the digital swamp, and make marketing more effective. No more Mr Nice Guy, it’s a crusade to get Google, Facebook and other technology companies to change their ways.

The two companies are better known by their brands. Unilever owns Dove, Domestos, Knorr, Marmite, Persil, and PG Tips for example. P&G owns Gillette, Flash, Pampers, Tampax, Fairy, and Oral-B. They’re not just the biggest advertisers, they’re among the most respected. When they speak people listen.

Between them they spend around $16 billion a year on marketing, and they reckon a lot of it is wasted. They know where most of it goes, and they’re calling for action on digital ad viewability, fraud protection, third-party verification and measuring what matters. They pay for the number of times their ad is seen, but if people see 10% of the ad, or 20% does that count? Keith Weed says: “Can you imagine… going into a store and buying 50 PG Tips to find there are only 45 inside [because] as an industry we agreed on 90% delivery? It has to be 100%.”

Research by Nielsen found that 40% of digital ads are not seen by the intended audience, although Google suggests it was nearer 56%, according to Weed, who also says that 29% of traffic is generated by ‘bad bots’ posing as human eyes. Unilever and P&G are pushing digital groups to make sure ads are seen by real people and for data and metrics to be audited by independent parties. No more marking their own homework! Digital media is “murky at best, fraudulent at worst” according to Marc Pritchard. Both companies put Google, Facebook and other technology companies on notice and pulled millions in ad spend until they put their houses in order. Other companies have joined the crusade. JP Morgan Chase slashed its list of approved sites its ads can appear on from around 400,000 to about 10,000 last year.

Three years ago, Facebook admitted to overstating its ‘average duration of video viewed’ by up to 80%. It had been calculating this number by dividing the total minutes a video had been watched by the total number of views. However, they only counted a view when three seconds or more had elapsed but counted every second of exposure from all users. The millions of users who did not make it to the third second of the video were excluded from the calculation, but their billions of scrolling seconds were. Couldn’t they do the sums, or were they just pulling a fast one?

The crusade is part of a larger shift to get back to measuring what matters. Marketers love the convenience of digital measurements and assume vaguely that intermediate outputs should lead to relevant outcomes. In the marketing world they call this ‘spray and pray’, but the evidence that they do connect directly with real world success is pretty thin.

Measuring outcomes that matter, such as real-world leads, sales and other strategic objectives, rather than intermediate, easy-to-measure, cloudy outputs, is step one on the road to more effective marketing.

If you’d like help in measuring your marketing and making it more effective, call Lucia on 01453 521621 or email Lucia@mra-marketing.com.