Marketing is more measurable than ever. But many of those measurements come from black boxes that marketers don’t fully understand.
The WSJ recently revealed that Facebook had been overstating a key video ad metric for two years. Facebook informed ad buying agency Publicis that the earlier metric overestimated time spent watching Facebook videos by 60 – 80%. The issue was quickly dubbed “OverstateGate.”
In a subsequent note to clients, Publicis wrote:
“In an effort to distance themselves from the incorrect metrics, Facebook is deprecating [the old metrics] and introducing ‘new’ metrics in September. Essentially, they’re coming up with new names for what they were meant to measure in the first place. This once again illuminates the absolute need to have 3rd party tagging and verification on Facebook’s platform.”
As WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell put it, “The referee and player cannot be the same person.”
The issue brings to light a broader issue. Frequently in digital marketing, the referee and player are the same person.
Marketers have no shortage of metrics on their dashboards, but they are still often flying blind. Marketing visibility can be simultaneously clear and opaque. To paraphrase Coleridge, the state of marketing is “metrics, metrics everywhere, and not sure what to think.”
OverstateGate brought a colorful rise out of Branding Professor Mark Ritson:
“This little debacle once again confirms that nobody actually knows what the fuck is going on with digital media. Not media agencies, not big-spending clients and not armchair digital strategists. From the shadowy box of turds and spiders that is programmatic to the increasingly complex and deluded world of digital views, the idea that digital marketing is more analytical and attributable than other media is clearly horse shit. Sure, it has more numbers and many more metrics but that does not make it more accountable, it makes it less so.”
In general, marketers can’t always take metrics at face value. We have to get savvier and more sophisticated at questioning the numbers we use. We have to beware of faux metrics and fuzzy math.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about digital marketing metrics.
Here’s a related cartoon I drew about Ad Viewability last year.