How Not to Measure Marketing Campaign Success

How Not to Measure Marketing Campaign Success
Emmie Musser
June 04, 2015
Stylized face

Impressions are an important unit of measurement in advertising. For most marketing campaigns, media takes the lion’s share of the investment, and the ability to quantify this significant spend in some way is essential for accountability on many levels.

One impression = one ad shown one time. Shown, not necessarily seen or heard. It’s similar to the thought introduced to us by Simon and Garfunkel in 1964: “People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening...” The majority of advertising impressions are not truly impressing at all.

This is an especially important point of understanding as advertisers continue to flock to reallocate larger shares of their media investments to the digital world. Digital by far boasts the most cost-effective impressions and mind-boggling amounts of measurable online activity. It’s not uncommon now to see digital media plans touting gross rating points over the 1,000 mark. Digital is important. Impressions are important. But, a savvy advertiser knows there is no silver bullet.

One might think this is a welcome trend for media professionals, as bigger numbers equal better results, right? Not so. Overemphasis on numbers presents an opportunity for those trying to make a quick buck to overstate the value of a media plan. It therefore presents an obstacle for the many media professionals trying to build a deeper campaign with meaningful results to explain the difference between measurable impressions and meaningful impressions.

Allow me to illustrate this concept. Picture a busy downtown area on a sunny day: tall buildings, crowded sidewalks, cars honking… You walk down the street and incidentally pass 500 people. You make eye contact with 10 people. You accidentally bump into five people. You stop and shake hands with two people. You sit down at a café next to a stranger and have a conversation with that one person. How many impressions did you just make? If you’re an ad, you made 518 impressions. Period. No one impression is weighted more heavily or deemed more effective than another. But you already know those impressions are far from equal.

The bottom line is that we must dig deeper. Demand and document clearly defined campaign objectives, then set up media/advertising objectives to support your actual campaign goals.

If you want to sell 100 widgets and align an ad campaign that promises 5 million impressions, are you successful if the ad campaign delivers 10 million impressions but only 50 widgets are sold?

This applies to awareness campaigns, education campaigns, sales campaigns, etc. Find a measurable campaign objective and support it with media, but don’t let media metrics alone define our campaign success or failure.

“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement – that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”

—Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents”