How to get emerging media's measure

Emerging media poses a particular challenge to clients and agencies who want to prove its effectiveness. There are answers, fortunately. Jane Bainbridge reports.

The challenge facing today's marketers is much like the old philosophical conundrum: if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it fall, did it make a sound?

If media is used to reach an audience but it can't be measured, has that audience really been reached?

The options available to clients have never been greater, with the internet, broadband and mobile, in particular, opening up a world of possibilities for companies willing to experiment in a world of emerging and digital media. But there's risk too, which comes with the inherent difficulty in measuring media's return on investment (ROI), no matter how established the channel.

While industry standard measurements will no doubt develop as the media becomes more commonplace, in the meantime, there may even be some advantages to their absence.

Mike Taylor, joint managing partner at communications planning agency Monkey, lists these as: "More creativity, no commoditisation, more risk taking, an increase in passionate involvement, belief in what you feel is right as a planner and client, no homogenisation and clients getting bespoke solutions as well as a feel good factor." But he admits it makes it harder, or even impossible, to get work signed off.

In some cases it's not that the media can't be measured - if anything it can be measured far more accurately. It's that there is no agreed form the measurement should take. And at these early stages, investment is still so small that clients are often unwilling to dedicate further resources to adequately measure pre-and post-work.

What is required from the client is imagination. "A client creating a festival - let's say O2 - will achieve great appreciation from the music reveller for the fact they and all the others behind the scene put on a great show," says Taylor.

"O2 also enjoys branded content on and off air. To put this festival on will be heavy on the pocket initially, but it will pay off with every smile that appears on Joe Public's face whenever he looks at his ticket stub or wristband pinned to his bedroom wall."

Here we present a non-exhaustive breakdown of some of these new channels and how to judge their effectiveness.The issues facing media businesses are: are they brave enough to use them to experiment and build their brands. If not, do they risk missing out?

Experiential

Whether you call it "experiential" or "brand experience marketing", it's all about creating a multi-sensory activity, which should build a richer engagement with the consumer. The direct contact with consumers means its effectiveness can be measured to some extent, but what it lacks for marketing directors is a standard method of measurement.

Paul Ephremsen, chief executive of iD Live Brand Experience, says: "If you do work close to a store or retailer, you can increase immediate sales.

"If we research three months after the work and we measure against a control group, you can see large shifts in brand attributes."

He gives this example: "We did a job for Boss Woman, where we sent hunky Boss-type guys into offices to sit at upmarket female workers' desks. We measured that a year later and had 76% unprompted recall of that activity. The memorability and impact is really high."

While iD is developing a measurement model around the objectives of awareness, propensity to purchase and propensity for word of mouth, there is still no agreed industry benchmark.

Even so, Jez Paxman, strategy director at Sledge, agrees it is possible to prove a campaign's effectiveness. For instance, a recent experiential campaign for the Peugeot 1007 incorporated text messaging as a measurement mechanic, followed up by qualitative interviews.

Although the Live Brand Experience Association is making moves toward establishing a currency, Paxman acknowledges that: "without an industry-wide benchmark, it's very hard for clients to compare apples with apples, especially as brand experiences tend to vary a lot".

Viral

The genius of viral is that brands get the consumers to do the hard work. The challenge is putting together a message that is creative and innovative enough to be forwarded in the first place. And of course, once out there you have no control over who sees it. As Justin Kirby, managing director of DMC, puts it: "Do UK brands want to entertain Latvians?"

Toni Smith, head of communications at The Viral Factory, argues that if a company succeeds in creating content that friends want to share with one another, a far more positive brand experience can be achieved.

"It enables advertisers to reach large audiences for a relatively small budget," she adds.

Kirby, meanwhile, says the world of viral is changing. The old-school viral marketing of, say, a funny video is less desirable, as often its only form of measurement is reach.

But when it comes to measuring viral, there are some options.

"Measurement for advergames and stream videos uses server logs to see how many people have looked at it. Sprite-based tracking can track the spread of a video clip as it's passed around," says Kirby. "For a car brand, you could measure click-throughs to requesting a brochure or test drive."

Branded content

Branded content, though much talked about, remains the least understood by marketers. And for clients only interested in hard numbers, it is probably not the right option.

Mark Wood, commercial director at Freedom Media, says: "You have to go in with clear targets and goals and if the objectives don't go beyond media value, then it's probably not for you. Most of what we do for advertisers are projects where objectives are more than just measuring the number of people watching it."

He admits that, in isolation, branded content may not produce the kind of measurement some clients want, and it's important to extend the campaign to other areas that can directly make money, and hence be measured clearly. This could include mobile activity, broadband, computer games, promotions linked to on-pack or in-store merchandise, licensing opportunities, revenues generated from telephone calls etc.

"There's a whole raft of ways of measuring success. It's really a question of agreeing it in advance," he says, though he acknowledges that many clients are still nervous about it, which has limited its take up so far.

He says softer benefits - such as relevance, salience, consumer engagement and competitive edge - can all be achieved, but are inevitably harder to measure.

Video on demand (VOD)

VOD is at the forefront of the new technology available to advertisers and, as such, its use is still in the experimental phase. But broadcasters are eagerly researching its possibilities and there's a sense that, for advertisers up for a challenge, it's time to get involved.

As Sarah Rose, head of VOD and channel development at Channel 4, puts it, "advertisers should come on the journey of discovery with us".

C4 has started experimenting with the likes of Lost, but this is working on a viewer-funded, rather than an advertiser-funded, model - although from January 2007 it will add pre-roll advertising in front of the content.

"We are doing research to see what viewers will bear, but it shows they are happy to have up to one minute of advertising even if they've paid for the service. When it's tailored and bespoke for them, they look at it even more," she says.

John James, commercial and operations director at Flextech, sees the current market being one of learning rather than scale.

"VOD, on PC or TV, brings even more benefits than multi-channel TV because of the context," he says. "It's a positive choice by the consumer, not default viewing, therefore it says something clear about the consumer which is more attitudinal than demographic."

The good news is that VOD has the potential to provide very accurate measurement, but as yet there is no trading currency like Barb.

"With VOD you can measure everything viewers do, more than with TV; you can see every download, stream etc," says Rose.

Podcasting

The buzz around podcasting has been deafening of late, although it's still a relatively rare medium and any advertisers putting hard cash into it - no matter how small the investments currently required - are definitely at the cutting edge.

The huge advantage of podcasting is the degree to which it engages users - they make an active choice to access the podcast by downloading, subscribing or streaming it.

Adam Freeman, deputy advertising director at Guardian Newspapers, one of the more innovative newspaper groups when it comes to experimenting with new media, says: "In times of information overload, consumers are engaging with the content, so it's a strong place for communication messages to be put into. There is also very little or no communication clutter."

The Guardian has limited its podcasts to one sponsor each. For example, its World Cup daily podcast from football pundit James Richardson was sponsored by mobile company 3.

"It's new so we're still learning, but the sponsor gets involved with all the promotional activity around it - not just the audio part, but the whole event, so it's more powerful than a single audio work," says Freeman.

He says there are ways in which measurements can be achieved, such as subscribers and number of downloads, but is reluctant to see a trading mechanism such as cost per thousand. The revenue model is currently closer to that of sponsorship, he argues, although he admits it may ultimately end up going more the way of radio.

Digital screens

While there is no industry-wide currency, Chris Frampton, sales and marketing director for Dynamax Technology, is incredulous that anyone should think digital screens, as outdoor media, can't be measured.

"The technology can be time-stamped in the same way as TV. You know when an ad's been placed, which screen it's on, so you can run campaigns, trials and tests and control it in a way you can't with print. You can run a campaign outside Tesco on Tuesday and see the impact on the store and tie it together with electronic point of sale (EPOS) data, stock control and advertising networks. You can measure it within a few moments and show a sales uplift that day," he says.

And it's efficient: linking the digital networks to stock control means ads for promoted items can be automatically stopped if stock gets down to 100 units. Frampton says it's only clients' imagination that is limiting the medium's use, claiming there is a fair degree of ignorance because the technology is still new. Julie France, managing director of Avanti, says an industry-wide currency is being worked toward by the Outdoor Advertising Association and Postar.

Interactive TV

Interactive TV promised much when it arrived several years ago. But as Jim Marshall, chairman of Starcom UK, says: "Although there are some good case studies, internet red-button TV has not been terribly successful."

Rupert Britton, a senior consultant with iTV specialist Decipher, admits: "Measurement is a huge issue and is very problematic. The Continental tracker [a Barb-like panel for iTV run by Continental Research] service can be quite inaccurate."

The tracker asks panel members whether they noticed the red button prompt and if so, whether they pressed red. Problems are caused by limited numbers of people using the interactive option skewing the figures, he explains. But hard statistics can be achieved when there is a direct response element, such as requesting coupons or brochures.

But the future is more promising. "Sky is creating a new panel - Sky View Panel - to take over from Continental. It's going to be more accurate but still not got hard measurement," Britton claims.

"Interactive TV is still in the first phase now and it won't improve until broadband gets involved. When we get broadband-enabled set-top boxes we'll see internet measurement for TV and then it will get exciting."

CREATING BENCHMARKS

The difference between measurement and currency

What is clear with all these newer forms of media is that while there are invariably ways of measuring results, there is rarely an agreed currency such as cost per thousand.

As agencies, clients and broadcasters get more involved, the industry moves closer to establishing benchmarks, but we're not there yet.

John James, commercial and operations director at Flextech, argues the debate about currency is monolithic and that the industry needs to be open-minded about measurement in the future.

"It's too early to talk about a single currency for new media," he says. "We have to be less dependent on a single currency and that challenges the existing trading model."

Jim Marshall, chairman of Starcom UK, says: "What tends to happen when media grows up is that a universal currency is created.

"The internet is now at a point in time where it needs a standard industry-endorsed research system to create a currency - it's one of the requirements of maintaining mainstream media."

Monkey's Mike Taylor believes the current lack of standard industry currency should not deter advertisers, claiming such currency will develop over time.

"The way to measure effectiveness and cost of activity should be agreed up front between the agency and client. In the very near future, a column on a campaign review that includes podcast downloads will become more common," he predicts.

"The measurement task is made even more intricate as we no longer understand our media intake as a fixed activity that is focused on a single medium. It happens within a multi-media environment.

"What was thought to be tertiary media or something consumed on a lower level, may be the lead medium with some consumers. For an example, an online community who can launch an the award-winning band The Artic Monkeys (Brit award/NME awards) should not be sniffed at!"

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