Digital marketing and comms – Nick Manning on the need for measurement

Another good presentation at the recent ProcureCon Marketing event came from Nick Manning of Ebiquity, a firm that helps buyers optimize the effectiveness of their spend on marketing communications.

It will surprise no-one to learn that digital marketing has become a key element of the marketing landscape over recent years, and few will be amazed to hear that it suffers from a lack of transparency. And whilst creative agency fees are falling, “media agency fees continue to rise”, according to Manning and indeed 80% of the World Federation of Advertisers members surveyed.

It's a complex supply chain these days, with advertisers, media agencies, buying groups and a whole range of media vendors to contend with. Discounts, deferred payments, rebates and kickbacks can cloud the picture at each and every stage. And, as a provider ourselves of digital advertising opportunities to our own sponsors and advertisers, these comments from Manning really resonated:

  • There is potential for 50% of an advertiser’s budget to be lost in undisclosed mark-ups, fees and commissions.
  • There can be up to 50% “viewability loss” (so you think people are seeing your advert – but they’re not)!
  • Up to one third of the apparent traffic on websites can be “non-human”, with a consequent loss of actual effectiveness and benefits.

Without transparency of performance measurement and money flows, that means it is really hard to know what you are getting for your money, in a market worth some $138 BILLION globally. The digital marketing space all sounds somewhat Wild-West-ish, not surprising given the youth of so much of this market, the new options and technologies that are available. Who really knows how well LinkedIn sponsored updates are worth (yet)? Or whether your brand really benefits from having 3 million “Likes” on Facebook? (Manning presented some evidence to suggest the answer to that question might well be “not much”!)

There were many other interesting points and remarks in Manning's session. Achieving high numbers of 'digital impressions' of your advertising message doesn’t necessarily mean too much – the quality matters as well as the quantity. Thinking about who is seeing your communication and for how long is the sort of detail that helps really determine effectiveness. And in summary, all digital marketing and communication needs to be tracked, measured and optimised.

I guess this session also demonstrated why marketing services procurement is one of the most fascinating and most dynamic spend categories at the moment. There is just so much change – all of these marketing options we’re discussing now simply did not exist when I first came into business, and most of them weren't around even ten years ago. And who knows where we will go next – the pace of technology and change means that opportunities for the smart, and risks for the unwary, are likely to continue and even grow in the next ten years.

The good news is that this highlights one of the areas where procurement people can add value to their marketing colleagues. Working with budget holders to track and improve supplier performance should be important for procurement in any spend category - and this one is no exception. And it look like there is plenty of scope to drive better outcomes and therefore value here in the digital marketing world.

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