Traditional media gets away with intangible metrics, digital media can be measured to a fine degree
Size matters not when you can target your ad spend on your desired audience demographic
THERE are various studies showing that Malaysians spend about 10 times as much time online as they do on traditional media, yet the digital space gets only a low single-digit percentage of the total advertising expenditure (adex).
It’s an equation that iCar Asia chief executive Damon Rielly once described to Digital News Asia (DNA) as being “completely out of whack.”
While online ad spend is growing fast, it remains a drop in the bucket compared with how much money is still being poured into traditional outlets such as television and newspapers.
There are many theories why, depending on who you ask: Traditional media’s long-established relationship with media buying agencies; the agencies themselves being laggards; or the fact that there are many misconceptions about the effectiveness of digital advertising.
“In some ways, digital shot itself in the foot by being very measurable,” says Tom Hogg (pic), commercial director for Malaysia and Singapore at media planning and audience profiling solutions company Effective Measure.
“But we can turn that around and we’re actually getting a lot of traction with advertisers at the moment, many of whom appreciate the new ways it (digital advertising or marketing outcome) can be measured,” he says.
Many clients would traditionally measure the effectiveness of a campaign by looking at the click-through rate for a banner ad, for instance, and then complain that the rate is very low.
“The click-through rate is typically 1%, and the advertiser will say that digital doesn’t really work,” Hogg says.
“The way I’ve always challenged this is that if you have could have ‘click-through’ rates for advertisements on billboards or newspapers, or even TV commercials, you’d probably get a similar ‘click-through’ rate.
“People may be looking the other way instead of at the billboard; or may leave the room during the commercial break – there’s just no way to measure it,” he notes.
Yet traditional media gets away with eyeball estimates, which essentially depends on people incidentally glancing at an ad – something which digital advertising also enjoys, but is never credited with.
“That metric [click-through rates] is typically used to measure performance, but I think it should be viewed in a different way,” says Hogg.
“So if I’ve got 10 million impressions going out and I have a 1% click-through rate, then what it means is that I’ve got 1% of the people who have taken a direct and proactive decision to interact with the brand,” he says, adding that the other 99% who are spending time on the page and reading its content would still be exposed to the advertisement.
Position helps and the advertisement should be in the right context, of course – an automotive ad in a fashion site will probably be ignored.
“Even if people don’t click on it, it’s still there to be seen,” says Hogg. “We don’t know how many people may flip over a newspaper page and not see your ad.
“If anything, the digital exposure is much higher – it’s there on the screen, but obviously this is a very difficult thing to measure without very detailed research,” he says, noting that traditional media enjoys the benefit of such market research.
“This is very important – I don’t think click-through rates are a useless metric, I just think they’re being viewed in the wrong way,” he adds.
The new value proposition
The Melbourne-based Effective Measure first expanded into South-East Asia in 2009, and now has operations in the Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, where it has its regional head office. It has 10 staff in the region, and is also hiring more for Malaysia and Thailand.
“It’s a very lean model,” Hogg admits. “One of the beauties of our product is that it is a self-service dashboard with all the insights a client may need that can be accessed on a 24-hour basis any time they need it.
“Our staff is here then to make sure contracts are renewed, to address any of the more strategic issues, and to get close to the client to better understand their needs and see how our products can help,” he says.
Effective Measure’s clients come from five key areas: Publishers, of which it has 35 in Malaysia; agencies (15-20 in Malaysia); networks (four); insight agencies or researchers (currently only one in Malaysia); and brands (five).
“When it comes to publishers, we have all the major newspapers like The Star, Utusan Malaysia and Sin Chew; and the leading media agencies such as Starcom MediaVest, UM (Universal McCann, GroupM and OmniCom,” says Hogg.
He could not however disclose brands which are using Effective Measure, citing confidentiality.
Publishers would have an obvious use for Effective Measure’s tools to sell their ad inventory. “If you’re a brand, then you may want to know something about the people visiting your website so that you can make sure your messaging and the offers you have online are tailored to them,” he says.
The ‘who they are’ comes from demographic profiles (see below).
“Also, when brands run digital campaigns, they can put a tag into that campaign and we can actually deliver metrics for that campaign: GRPs (gross rating points) for a digital campaign, or a percentage of the impressions that reach the target audience when the campaign began,” he adds.
The GRP metric is usually used by media buyers to compare the advertising strength of various media vehicles.
‘Brands’ here are typically companies which make their revenue on something that is not their online inventory: Big companies, for instance, which are interested in reaching out via the digital space to connect with their consumers.
And such a big company may have a very detailed target audience for each brand it has. Dove soap, for example, may want to look at women between the ages of 20 and 40.
“What we can do with our planning tool then is to look at all the publishers and say these are the sites that can probably best reach your audience,” says Hogg. “We put a tag in the digital campaign, and see what the campaign actually delivers.”
As for determining which publisher sites are suitable, Effective Measure has similar tags in 250 sites in Malaysia.
“And for the sites that are not tagged, we still review them with our panel,” says Hogg. “And this panel is made of 8,500 Malaysians who have agreed to have a browser plugin installed.”
The panel was garnered from demographic surveys that Effective Measure conducted with some of the sites it works with. At the end of the survey, users were asked if they would like to be on the panel, and 8,500 agreed.
“We deliver what we believe brands actually want, and that’s looking at the demographic reach of a campaign,” Hogg says.
The surveys meanwhile garnered 85,000 live demographic profiles in Malaysia alone, he claims.
“That’s a very rich source of information,” he adds. “My career was in market research before I joined Effective Measure; and for an online population of 17 million (Malaysia’s), the statistically accurate sample size is 658. We’ve got 85,000 profiles … plus almost 9,000 panellists.”
Next page: Do unto digital media what you would unto traditional media