How avoiding the ‘streetlight effect’ can drive revenue for advertisers

Exploring the correlation between visibility, insight and ROI – and why it’s not enough to look where it’s already easy to see.

Advertisers need a clear line of sight on all their data, says Bridget Arik, Chief Operating Officer at Redmill Solutions...

The latest IPA Bellwether Report delivered a much-needed boost for the UK marketing industry. Not only did it show the strongest budget growth in four years, but it also predicted continued growth into 2022.

Yet with this increase in budgets comes expectations of higher returns. With the wealth of data available to the modern marketer, reaching the right audience should be simple, shouldn’t it? Not according to Julie Ogilvie, VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester. “Many companies have diminished marketing’s role by measuring the function’s value through a narrow set of demand-oriented metrics,” she said recently. So how can marketers get a better line of sight across their data?

Streetlight effect: avoid fumbling in the darkness

An old parable mirrors what we see so often in our industry. The Drunkard’s Search or The Streetlight Effect tells of a police officer seeing a drunken man intently searching the ground near a lamp post and asks him what he’s looking for. The drunkard says he’s trying to find his car keys, and the officer helps him search for a few minutes, but without success. After a while the officer asks the man if he’s certain he dropped them by the lamp post. “No,” the man replies, “I lost them on the other side of the street somewhere.”

“Then why are you looking here?” the surprised and somewhat irritated officer asks. 

“Because the light is much better here,” the intoxicated man replies.

[Note: It's probably a good job the police officer didn't end up handing car keys to a drunken man.] Nonetheless, the marketing industry has the same mindset when it comes to data.

Data is seen as the most valuable resource in the world, and marketers have never had more available. An incredible 1.7 megabytes of information is generated for every person globally every second. 

Yet due to the sheer volume of it, many are unable to turn this glut into genuine business value. Instead, marketers use data to affirm their assumptions in lieu of asking more pertinent questions and digging further for answers.

Safe within the confines of their lamppost, marketers focus on what they already have, while the dark outside teems with opportunity.  

Searching for success beyond the streetlamp

Maximising visibility beyond the lamp post genuinely tracks the success of campaigns and delivers deeper customer insight. Actually achieving this, however, is one of the biggest challenges marketers face today.

Time and again we see marketers in possession of rich stories, impressive graphs, and artistically designed presentations that reflect the output of their digital data, for example. But often this data represents only a portion of their digital spend. Looking at all available media and marketing data – both on- and offline – is the only way to increase the reach of the streetlamp. How can marketers stretch the reach of the light? This is the opportunity, and where Media Data Management Platforms (MDMP) step-in.

Making the most out of your data

MDMPs are nothing new, of course, but with their statistical heavy-lifting their value is increasingly in line with the sheer scale of data available. With MDMPs, marketers really can keep their global media data delivery in view. Gaining a more granular understanding without them is not simple, leaving the bigger data picture in the dark.

Their edge is simply in their ability to ingest huge amounts of data and distill it in a way that is meaningful. MDMPs create data stories that are not possible without them. With all media data from all channels, and all local markets, in one place, marketers can quickly and easily compare and contrast.

It is important that MDPMs go beyond media planning data however and ingest buying delivery. Being able to access a record of actual media buys is vital, and offers the accountability of ad spend that can be utilised to: 

  • Optimise future planning and set pricing benchmarks
  • Fuel market-mix modelling and other ROI analysis
  • Provide the basis for deal performance management and audits

Keeping media data in the hands of brands is key to identifying successes and failures of campaigns and driving future success.

After all, the best way to find something is to shine more light on it, and not just to look where the light is already brightest.