A Sports Fan’s Perspective On Media Metrics

It's great that marketers have so many data points at their disposal nowadays, but columnist Merrily McGugan says media players must allow them to conduct third-party verification, as well as export data and use them elsewhere.

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SERBIA, BELGRADE - APRIL 27, 2014: The referee during the match. Eternal rivals have met 146th times in the Eternal soccer derby, FC Partizan and Red Star from Belgrade, Partizan won in this match, was played on 27 April in Belgrade.

The amount of data available to us as marketers in 2016 is, quite frankly, staggering. It comes as no surprise that the industry’s biggest media sellers are rounding out their solutions by adding data management platforms (DMPs) to their marketing stacks.

The list of players creating their own unique ecosystems continues to expand. Google, AOL, Facebook — wait, where’s Amazon? And although the allure of a one-stop shop is a powerful draw for marketing executives, opaque platforms come with their own set of unique problems.

Players Can’t Also Be Referees

Anyone familiar with sports understands the competitive spirit that great players exhibit. They also understand the need for objective referees to police the action on the field. Players are not always capable of taking an unbiased position when they have skin in the game and a financial incentive to win.

These unique self-reporting media environments often restrict or prohibit the objective third-party measurement that has proven essential for media buyers to be assured of accurate reporting. During Q2 2015, Kellogg pulled spend out of certain properties, including YouTube, based on a lack of third-party viewability verification.

Just as a player cannot be expected to police his own play, media owners cannot be trusted to sell, buy and report on their inventory performance. Yet that is precisely what happens today on many platforms.

Players Shouldn’t Write Their Own Paychecks

NFL quarterback Tom Brady makes 10 million dollars a year. International Real Madrid soccer player Christiano Ronaldo brought home 52.6 million dollars in 2015 salaried pay. Yet any well-paid player given the chance to write their own paycheck would probably keep adding zeroes until they ran out of room on the check.

Marketers expose themselves to unprecedented risk by loading their entire budget into a single media silo. Closed ecosystems retain the ability to limit inventory to command higher prices, leaving marketers vulnerable to rising media costs and declining ad effectiveness. Back in 2014, Google and Yandex opened their display advertising inventory to bidders buying with either company. Competition for placements immediately skyrocketed — along with prices. Brands fought to purchase the same inventory as yesterday, but at a higher price today. And honestly, who could expect a media owner to say no to that?

Players Must Contribute To The Broader Team

Each player has a valuable role on the field, but the team trumps each individual star. There is space in most marketing budgets for both Facebook buys and Google buys. There is a need for first-party data along with third-party data in the industry.

Environments that control or limit advertiser access to data are not acting as part of a unified marketing team. Players boast about full-stack offerings, but competing platforms make it nearly impossible for brand marketers to gain a holistic view across all marketing efforts. Google’s Doubleclick Audience Center DMP provides the company with the opportunity to leverage a combination of search data, Android user data, Chrome data, YouTube data and Gmail data on behalf of its advertising clients. Facebook offers advertisers true people-based advertising through its 1.5 billion Facebook user IDs.

But herein lies the issue: it is impossible for an advertiser to overlay these two data sets. Advertisers can take advantage of Google’s data only when advertising directly through Google; the same goes for Facebook.

Google AdWords, for example, allows marketers to access customized reports but reminds marketers on its AdWords Help page that they “can’t segment impression share, benchmark CTR or benchmark CPC by device or click type.” The page also states that they “can’t download an editable report using segments.”

By making it difficult to extract impression-level data from walled gardens and import it elsewhere, players have built an effective barrier to switching stacks. The most valuable consumer data entrusted to walled gardens rarely, if ever, comes back out. Media giants profit from valuable first-party data at marketers’ expense, while marketers remain trapped within an inflexible solution.

The Playing Field Of The Future

Opaque media silos will proliferate throughout 2016. But as they do, so will the industry’s need for independent referees: marketer-aligned, buy-side-only companies with objective measurement optimization capabilities.

Clicks, views and CPMs have always remained vulnerable to manipulation by sellers; it’s the nature of the game. But technology capable of measuring the most objective KPI of all — sales revenue — is well-positioned as the independent arbiter capable of breaking down those walls.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Merrily McGugan
Merrily McGugan is Director of Corporate Marketing at DataXu, a programmatic marketing and analytics technology company. Prior to joining DataXu, Merrily held the role of Head of Content at Pixability. Previously, she held positions at Omnicom’s Communispace; Accenture Sydney, Australia; and Havas’ Arnold Worldwide on the award winning truth™ and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey accounts. Merrily holds a B.A. with honors from Harvard University and is a recipient of the High Distinction Academic Excellence Medal from the University of Sydney, Australia. Merrily is a published author and former Let’s Go international travel guide writer for Western Europe and Britain.

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