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It’s OK to be Comfortable with Imperfect Measurement

by Josif Zanich, December 02, 2021
It’s OK to be Comfortable with Imperfect Measurement

The journey of digital has been short compared to more traditional channels. However, one theme has been consistent over the past 10 years. Digital has delivered measurable outcomes allowing for accountability. Programmatic media not only took what digital brought to life but created a boom, adding fuel to the fire and allowing for media to be measured to the tenth degree.

Compared to traditional mediums and channels, which have typically relied on static panels or representative samples, digital has been obsessed with layering data on top of data to come up with the perfect model. Many businesses and extremely smart individuals have made great progress in developing technology to help develop this perfect equation. Businesses that specialize in attribution modeling, aided by technology like our very own Data management platforms, have hired some of the smartest and most esteemed counterparts in our industry to close the gap between what marketing ran and what the customer did as an action. 

Unfortunately over the past 12 months, much of the backbone of this work has now changed. Apple, Google, and Safari, to name a few, have taken a position on privacy which has left the building blocks of this perfect equation in a not-so-perfect shape. This has been further confirmed by Google, who recently announced that their last click model of attribution is also now not as effective as once believed. 

The ability to have a single view of the customer – as shown in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 action hit Minority Report, which explores the disappearance of privacy for the promise of security and convenience – might now feel distant, but that’s ok! The days of a pet food brand setting up a campaign targeting ‘wealthy dog owners living in NYC that wear green shirts’ is truly well behind us. 

Although the benefit of perfect measurement is hard to argue with, I do feel there has been a tax, which means that media buying has lost its sense of creativity. If you spoke to someone who worked in advertising in the early 90s or 2000s and listened to them talk about how TV was planned or how radio was purchased, the thought behind each campaign and how to achieve the best outcome is really something else. I’m optimistic it will become even more important to bring this sense of creativity back, not only for brands but agencies and technology companies alike. This is not to put total disregard for data but a meeting of the two will be even more important as we move forward. 

With change comes opportunity and a shift in our approach to measurement. For starters – words like ‘panels’, ‘samples’, and ‘surveys’ were something previously frowned upon, however, they have now become extremely important to garner as much insight as possible. By bringing together and making sense of what data is available then leveraging technology to make sense and tell a story I feel will win the race!