The Myth of Digital Measurement.

Every time that some new aspect of digital media/marketing gets hot, the measurement crew rolls onto the scene and tells us how they’re going to make order of the whole thing.  Lately my Twitter feed and inbox have been bulging with stories about “last click attribution” and “media mix modeling” and next generation brand research.  But like Big Foot, Nessie or bi-partisanship, it’s time for us to see digital measurement for what it is:  a myth.  But before you rush off to find kindling to begin burning me at the stake for heresy, let’s look at the facts:

The Drift is proudly underwritten this week by PubMatic,which empowers publishers with one holistic platform to sell advertising more intelligently.

Fact One:  Digital is Permanently Dynamic. Not only do digital capabilities constantly evolve, but the pace of that evolution is constantly accelerating.  Which leads us to…

Fact Two:  “Measurement” Can Never Keep Up. All of the models we discuss seem rooted in recreating some form of measurement from the stable marketplaces of the past.  As long as we’re trying “update” or “reinvent” the GRP, market mix modeling, attribution and the like, we will fail. And these will never be truly compelling because…

Fact Three: We’re Always Onto the Next Thing. At the exact moment something in our world becomes stable enough to be measured in a scalable way, we lose interest in it and it becomes commoditized.  So there’s actually a value in NOT being measured.  (Just ask Facebook, which has written its own rules on ad sizing and measurement  to the tune of $2.1 billion in ad revenue).  Add to that…

Fact Four: Measurement Supports What We Already Want to Do. Marketers use research the way drunks use lampposts:  More for support than for illumination.  The idea that better score-keeping and more accurate numbers are going to tip spending is a lie.  What’s missing is not math or science, but rather a narrative analysis.  So take a look at…

Fact Five:  The Future of Measurement is Soft.   We need to radically alter our thinking about measurement in the world of digital marketing.  I think the real value lies in a model that’s both impressionistic and analytical; that draws in many data points and trends to help understand what just happened and what’s likely to make more of it happen in the future.

Think I’m nuts?  Believe that I just don’t “get” the subtleties of the measurement world?  Then consider that we’ve spent over 15 years focused on linear mathematical measurement and what do we have to show for it?  The click-through, last click attribution and advertisers doubling down on their TV spending.  You stick with Bigfoot.  I’m interested in something new.