How do we measure the success of an ad or a campaign in the modern digital ecosystem, where creative is often served across various mediums and touchpoints? Is it through ROI, profit, conversions – or is it Cannes Lions statuettes?
It is a familiar question for brands measuring marketing impact against the backdrop of fragmented data, complex customer journeys, and evolving privacy regulations.
Performance Marketing World partnered with SEEN Connects, specialists in building lasting success for brands with on and offline communities, and BrightBid, the AI engine for paid search. The panel of leading marketers debated how brands measure ad success – and why bad ads can be more effective than award-winning work…
Julie Doleman, managing director at Entain, which owns betting brands such as Ladbrokes and Coral, said: “We measure everything within an inch of its life, and we have a brilliant econometric model that is very, very robust. We have to account for every pound and pence. I regularly debate with a creative agency for one of our biggest brands that want to do beautiful films. I would love that, but I need our brand films to work really hard and pay back.
“My marketing spend is nearly £200 million, and every single penny is measured. And when I came in, we had a lot of silos; the brand team was doing its thing, and the performance marketing team was doing its thing. Silos create disconnects in the customer journey, so we’ve spent the last year getting rid of those disconnects and thinking far more holistically about the customer journey. And every bit of that funnel is measured.”
How to measure unmeasurable impact?
Kat Chinnock, head of brand and communication planning at Which?, said she is seeing an amplification of the organisation’s ads in a more organic way, which is tough to measure with data platforms or purely with pounds and pence.
“I’m working with our leadership team on a rebrand to show that we represent modern Britain, and developing creative to change the narrative. We’ve seen organic activity on platforms like LinkedIn, as well as amplification from influencers who have seen our adverts. That is a measure of success, and I’m making sure there is visibility at leadership level. As an industry, we get very hard on numbers, but there are other ways we can achieve real value.”
Esteban Ribero, global research leader, TikTok, said that “the performance marketing world is putting too much emphasis on the numbers”, but not recognising the brand building that produces the numbers.
“Strategic thinking used to be a lot more prevalent, and I love the idea that we could see a resurgence of that. We shouldn’t forget that we’re trying to connect with people. And sometimes we don’t have the right technology to measure something – that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Let’s get back to being strategic thinkers.”
Sedge Beswick (pictured), founder and CEO of SEEN Connects, spoke about the value of driving conversation and changing perceptions through campaigns. Beswick's agency connects the right people to the right brands by empowering creators both on and offline. She highlighted eBay’s sponsorship of Love Island and its focus on “pre-loved” clothing as a prime example of getting audiences to connect with with a brand’s mission.
“We saw so much commentary around that partnership and changing the perception of Love Island being purely about fast fashion and being sponsored by a Pretty Little Thing or a Boohoo. That partnership challenged the status quo and got people thinking about eBay as a platform for pre-loved products and sustainability.”
SEEN Connects managed the relationship between eBay and its Love Island ambassador, a relationship that lasted beyond the show’s finale, so serving the audience with ambassador content long after ITV’s cameras stopped rolling.
Rethinking ROI timelines
Samuel Day, CMO of Confused.com, said that the perception that anything that’s not performance marketing is “not performing” is one of the industry’s most pressing challenges, and encouraged brands to switch their thinking on ROI timeframes.
“Our brand marketing is multi-year, and I’ve switched above-the-line spend off to create a revenue cascade that shows how long it takes to return. As soon as I did that, our accountants asked why they couldn’t capitalise the expenditure, which is a great question.
“Any other expenditure – buying a building, tech development – represents a multi-year ROI, so why is that not the case on brand? We need to speak differently about investment time horizons.”
“The fragmented and ever-changing nature of the digital eco-system,” explained Kate Cox, CMO at BrightBid “has led many marketing teams to lose sight of the bigger picture: how marketing drives value for organisations.
"It is only through connecting data points and taking a step back that marketing can reengineer its value for the enterprise – by refocusing on the customer and the market, and by helping our businesses win by clearly connecting customer insights, creative ideas and first-party data to the right goals, on the right channels at the right time.”
Working holistically to achieve Northstar
Many experts spoke of the challenges of silos within businesses, and how it impacts performance marketing. Doleman said that as well as getting teams to work more closely together and develop an appreciation for fellow team members, encouraging connected thinking also gives brands better control of their budgets.
“It’s common that the brand team has a budget, the performance marketing team has a budget, and so on. But just because you have budget, should you be spending all of it? Doesn’t it make more sense to think holistically, be less protective of individual budgets and work together to achieve the brand’s Northstar?
“That’s challenging because teams are protective of those budgets, and the budget holder will use what they might think are small amounts of money – £50k, £100k – to top up a piece of work. But working together gives you a better chance of investing in a way that helps the business achieve its broader goals.”
Robin Langford, editor, UK, Performance Marketing World; Esteban Ribero, global research leader, TikTok; Kat Chinnock, head of brand and communication planning, Which?; Julie Doleman, managing director, Entain; Samuel Day, CMO, Confused.com; Sara Holt, UK & Ireland group marketing director, Merlin Entertainments; Pierre Beaufils, global business consulting and business transformation leader, EY; Sedge Beswick, founder & CEO, SEEN Connects; Kate Cox, CMO, BrightBid; Gustav Westman, CEO, BrightBid.