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The Future of Digital Measurement: Extrapolate and Locate

Google recently announced a two-year delay to the final withdrawal of third-party cookies from its Chrome browser. However, it would be a mistake for marketers to use this delay as an excuse to kick the issue of ‘cookieless’ targeting and measurement into the future again.

The clear and irresistible trend in the digital marketing marketplace is towards increased respect (and legal protection) for consumer privacy. Marketers will continue to insist on scalable campaigns, but measurement will become increasingly restricted over time due to a plethora of reasons. Whether it’s the fragmented view with universal IDs (UIDs), the reduction in Mobile Ad IDs (MAIDs) due to iOS 14.5 or the reduction in web tracking due to ad and third-party cookie blocking, the digital marketing ecosystem can’t expect to be able to measure every impression served in the granular ways it once could.

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Being able to accurately measure the reach and calculate the ROI of digital campaigns has been vital to CMOs and media agencies. Measurement provides them with the information they need to optimize the performance of digital spending and arms them with persuasive facts and figures to take to their key stakeholders. So, what will the future of digital campaign measurement look like? 

Crunching the Numbers for Digital Measurement

Measurement, in this sense, is mostly about attribution statistics: did X cause Y?

Without effective measurement, marketers would struggle to optimize their campaigns, which could result in wasted ad spend and missed business objectives. The future of measurement will continue to be a statistical process, but the ecosystem changes mean that extrapolation from trusted, measured and consented pools of data will become the norm to answer these questions at scale.

Despite the changes enumerated above, marketers will continue to have access to statistically significant amounts of consented measurement data. In the US and with the latest versions of iOS, where both Apple and regulatory limitations apply, Blis is still seeing 55%% of traffic appear as consented and measurable. By applying robust, statistically sound extrapolation methodologies, this is more than enough data to help marketers understand the performance of their campaigns and optimize accordingly.. And such extrapolation is hardly new – any digital marketer using viewability tags will already be familiar with this approach and extrapolating from consumer panels has been core to TV measurement for decades. 

Generally speaking, companies will need to adopt transparent extrapolation methodologies, rooted in sound statistical principles, to paint the full picture of performance. Transparency is essential, as a lot of companies will use ‘black box’ techniques that always show them winning. Getting marketers to support extrapolation will only be possible if companies can gain confidence that the processes used are reasonable, accurate and open to scrutiny.

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The Role of Location-Based Ad Campaigns

Expect to also see an increased role for location-based, regional ad campaigns in this increasingly privacy-first world. Not so long ago, it was common for national TV campaigns to run with certain control regions blanked out for measurement purposes. In this way, the brand’s performance in regions where a campaign ran could be compared and measured against the regions where it did not, all without the use of any personal data. 

A contemporary version of this technique will see a significant revival on digital channels in the months and years ahead. Thanks to modern machine learning and big data techniques, these kinds of ‘audience control groups’ can be better automated and more nuanced than ever before.

As an example, advertisers will build partnerships with organizations that offer access to other forms of rich, privacy-compliant, anonymized data (such as shopper and POS data) to better inform, target and measure campaigns. By having access to this additional data it can bolster the remaining consented data and help advertisers achieve scalability.  

It’s Time to Evolve

Marketers will now need to evolve as the world around them changes. They must plan for the changes coming to maintain their competitive edge and ensure they aren’t caught out by others who have moved faster. If you only market where you can measure in the old-fashioned ways, you will see your supply and reach diminish and your costs go up. Plan today for a brighter tomorrow.

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Don’t wait for the cookie to crumble: it’s time to start rethinking your marketing measurement now.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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