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Why online advertising agencies are driven by effectiveness not just efficiency

A busi­ness expert has urged account man­agers and oth­ers hold­ing media jobs in online adver­tis­ing agen­cies to be more dis­crim­i­nat­ing about what they’re try­ing to mea­sure with adtech data.

Don’t mea­sure effi­cien­cy when effec­tive­ness is what’s needed

There is a fash­ion these days for “pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing”, the con­tem­po­rary suc­ces­sor to ear­li­er Adland pre­oc­cu­pa­tions like reach and fre­quen­cy.  But accord­ing to Francine Hard­away, the co-founder of the busi­ness con­sul­tan­cy, while pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing brings effi­cien­cy to the adver­tis­ing process, it doesn’t inevitably bring effec­tive­ness.  Effi­cien­cy is fine and dandy — nobody, from the agency’s account man­ag­er to the art direc­tor, wants to be inef­fi­cient.  But as Hard­away observes, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly move prod­uct.  To do that, it has to be blend­ed with the “be-all and end-all of adver­tis­ing”: effec­tive­ness.  And that means under­stand­ing what makes peo­ple act.

Writ­ing in the busi­ness mag­a­zine Fast Com­pa­ny, Hard­away reminds job­bing account man­agers and art direc­tors of the wis­dom so intu­itive­ly under­stood by the late Steve Jobs: human beings are emo­tion­al crea­tures who make deci­sions large­ly on the basis of those emo­tions. As Hard­away puts it, agen­cies must ask cer­tain core ques­tions of the data they’re gathering:

“Where are our cus­tomers and what makes them buy? How do we query data to arrive at
effec­tive media buys?  Effec­tive adver­tis­ing pro­vokes deci­sions, but effi­cient adver­tis­ing sim­ply reach­es people.”

Mov­ing the rev­enue needle

In fact, she argues, as the major­i­ty of deci­sions are made emo­tion­al­ly, agen­cies may need less data than they think, even though low-cost stor­age solu­tions and cloud com­put­ing have made our era the age of Big Data.  The key ques­tion for online adver­tis­ing agen­cies, Hard­away believes, a sim­ple but fun­da­men­tal one: “did this ad move the rev­enue needle?”

She cau­tions against mea­sur­ing for the sake of mea­sur­ing, or mea­sur­ing sim­ply because the tools are avail­able to mea­sure what­ev­er they mea­sure and instead points to the fact that effec­tive­ness means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent brands and it can’t be mea­sured with effi­cien­cy met­rics.  As Hard­away writes:

“If we are effi­cient in get­ting the wrong mes­sage to the right peo­ple, what good does that do?”

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