The importance of measuring brand advertising  

Darren Morton
By Darren Morton | 20 October 2022
Darren Morton

Darren Morton, Victoria and SA Sales Director, Quantcast

After two years of COVID-19 driven disruption, the world remains very far from normal. For many, economic uncertainty, geopolitical conflict, inflation, rising interest rates, and the soaring cost of living present a challenge to businesses and consumers alike. Hardly any sectors are immune to this disruption, although some have been more severely affected than others.

While it can seem overwhelming, this uncertainty and slow (or negative) growth is not new or unknown. The world has weathered crises before, from wars to market crashes. Global advertising spend – a bellwether for business and consumer confidence – has in fact picked up, with 12% growth predicted for this year: a reminder of the cyclical nature of the economy.

While 2020 saw a dip in global spend, 2021 bounced back to a new historic high. As marketers and media professionals, it’s important to find ways to support clients through these ebbs and flows by employing the best strategies to allocate and measure marketing spend.

Brand vs. Performance 

Many clients are asking us the age-old question about the distribution of brand dollars versus performance dollars. Conversations are happening at all levels within organisations relating to where budgets should be allocated, or indeed contained, which of course stretches well beyond the marketing sphere. What is the right balance for brands at the current time?

  • Do we invest in short-term performance marketing due to the ability to show ROI and deliver sales?
  • Do we invest in longer-term, upper funnel brand marketing to ensure that as a brand we have salience for when the tide turns and can capitalise on the marketing dollars spent?

As this debate continues to raise its head across our industry, I believe we need to move past the question of brand versus performance. Instead, we need to look at the measurement of every dollar spent and how that ties back to business objectives and ultimately the bottom line. Brands and agencies should have these important conversations with publishers and tech partners to understand what is available now to help achieve this.

Is there a perfect mix?

The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has defined the 95-5 rule, which states that only 5% of B2B buyers are in the market for goods and services at any one time. This means “only 20% of business buyers are ‘in the market’ over the course of an entire year; something like 5% in a quarter – or put another way, 95% aren’t in the market,” according to Professor John Dawes, author of the The B2B Institute’s paper on the topic.

While this paper focuses on the B2B market, its observations are also relevant to the wider market and illustrate where brands could better spend their marketing dollars. The overall takeaway is that brand advertising needs to become more metrics and data driven. As Peter Weinberg, Global Head of Development from The B2B Institute and a contributor to the Ehrenberg-Bass white paper recently observed: "It’s less about brand purpose and more about association with buying situations. If brands position themselves as financial and commercial, I think they are much less likely to have their budget cut."

Focus on the outcomes 

To become more data-driven and optimise advertising, measurement is key. In a digital environment, this has been relatively easy to do with precision, compared with more traditional channels.

But expanding privacy regulations and the end of third-party cookies make it increasingly challenging. Attribution models are becoming more complex with multiple measures needed to track success across ad campaigns.

With cookies going away, brands need to build sound first-party data strategies, capitalise on deeper audience insights, and set up the right attribution and measurement methodologies for campaigns.

Strong numbers may not translate into strong results if the wrong metrics are used. For example, it has been proven that incrementality [a way to measure a positive outcome from a specific interaction, such as an ad view] is more effective for measuring the true impact of an ad than clicks or impressions.

The need for consistency

The most critical thing during a time of uncertainty is consistency. Even if spend fluctuates, continuing to invest in brand advertising is vital. Brands who held on during the pandemic, rather than bringing advertising to a halt, have remained top of mind for customers as the world normalised and reopened. They can capitalise on the pent-up demand for sectors such as travel and leisure. Many brands who went dark never managed to get back in the race.

Communication is also particularly important for customers and other stakeholders during difficult times. Maintaining presence and providing consistent brand messaging builds trust and loyalty. What has changed is the channels of communication, which are now increasingly digital and mobile.

A more holistic approach to marketing and brand-building is needed, across a plethora of different channels. This means breaking down the walls of siloed brand and performance budgets, teams, and outcomes.

We need to look at brand measurement, as we have for many years looked at performance media, to deliver commercial results and be seen as a driver of growth beyond the limits of reach and frequency, clicks and viewability.

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