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Of walled gardens & measurement: Experts discuss what’s ailing digital metrics

With brands shifting more of their marketing dollars to mobile, scrutiny into the ROI of this channel has become a priority for marketers. Industry experts discussed some approaches to tackle the issues and validate the role of mobile marketing in a session titled, ‘Unified Measurement’, at the seventh edition of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Forum India, held in Mumbai on September 28, 2018. 

The session was moderated by Anant Rangaswami, Journalist, and the panellists included Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India; Vasuta Agarwal, VP & GM, India InMobi; B Sridhar, Chief Digital Officer, Diageo; Pallav Jain, Co-CEO, Performics.Convonix; and Kartikeya Varma, Executive Director, Product Leadership, Nielsen. 

Anant Rangaswami kicked off the session by asking B Sridhar about what pained him as a marketer and how he planned to get rid of it. 

To this, Sridhar replied, “I come from a company called Diageo. The measurement that we look into is 30 ml, 60 ml and 90 ml (laughs).” On a more serious note, he highlighted the three problems in this industry which gave him sleepless nights, “First, TV has been the most important part of our business, but with digital coming in, we need to know how that will impact the business overall. With TV as a platform, brands are able to measure the ROI on their spending, but in digital there is no measurement system yet. Secondly, there is duplication of data. Now, the ecosystem is seeing a sudden spurt of OTT platforms, with everyone claiming that they are the best as a platform and that is where I struggle. Finally, it is a pain point across Diageo globally to gauge how do my brands stand out in a trusted market place. There is a huge ad fraud happening, particularly on digital, where a percentage of my advertising dollar is getting wasted on some fancy digital words.” 

When asked about the aids through which brands can get relief, Partho Dasgupta said, “We (BARC) started the journey in 2015 and we measure TV reasonably well. But talking about digital, it’s like I want to do my ECG but don’t want to open my shirt for that. Well unfortunately, this is the hard truth that we have to face. There are walled gardens around, but in today’s time, technology is breaking it. The players who all are genuinely quite positive, advanced and modern are also building walled gardens – the more the walled gardens, the more problems will the brands face. We have decided to measure digital and pilot tests are being initiated, but we need proper support from the digital industry.” 

Agreeing with Dasgupta, Kartikeya Varma noted, “Measurement is a team sport and that’s how we have to look at it. All the mediums in this industry came at different points of time and they have different factors dictating them as well. But, I feel there should be a common way to measure them. But, for this, I think, advertisers really have to come together for a unified measurement for their ad spends and returns on digital.” 

When asked with whom brands/ marketers should talk to for a holistic measurement, Vasuta Agarwal said, “Today, brands talk to their agency or the platforms where they run their campaigns, which is a primary way, I think. But, what I also think is that now we should also speak to the BARCs and the Nielsons in the room. It has to be a partnership between agencies, brands and the measurement body.” 

Pallav Jain added here that as digital is still growing, in the next few years it will get a strong measuring tool. 

When Anant Rangaswami asked the panellists to nominate five names from the industry who they want to be in a panel and discuss on the same topic, Jain nominated Google, Facebook and “the OTTs of the world”. 

For Varma, it would be the Advertisers, as he felt that they needed to come in and demand for the measurement for the benefit of their business. The others that he nominated were the measuring bodies and digital platforms. 

Dasgupta remarked, “The issues of metrics are not that complex. You have to just go to the basics of figuring out as to what people are watching and use a holistic measurement for that. Today, the challenge is not the tools, because we have the tools, but that people in the ecosystem are not using the same tool. Metrics is not an issue; the issue is the walled garden.” 

As for whom he would nominate, Dasgupta said, “I would suggest to put the big digital players, top advertisers, top TV players and lock them in a room and say don’t move out without finding a solution!” 

InMobi’s Agarwal felt that only the advertisers could make the changes in the ecosystem, as it would be beneficial to them and they would get the right ROI for the dollar spent. 

When asked about the techniques through which brands could get an idea about how much their competitors are spending on digital, both Agarwal and Jain pointed out that on digital, there is still lack of transparency.

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