Written by Amy Lee, Associate Director, Competitive Solutions, Annalect
With advertising dollars following the consumer’s movement beyond the computer screen to mobile phones and tablets, it is more important than ever to measure competitive digital spend in order to capture the full story of the competitive advertising landscape. Yet, the measurement depth of digital spend lags behind digital advancement and the changing tide of consumer habits.
For example, although online video has been around for years, advertiser spend is only now starting to be tracked by syndicated data providers that centralize digital spend alongside traditional media. Although it is not revelatory that there has been a gap in the competitive tracking of spend between measured media (TV, print, radio, outdoor and online display) and unmeasured media (online video, paid search, social media and mobile), it has become more apparent that this gap needs to be addressed as advertisers allocate more dollars to the digital realm to target their audience.
In AdAge’s 2013 ranking of the top 100 advertisers, its methodology Kantar used was for measured media spend while estimating unmeasured media spend. One top advertiser, American Express, was ranked #9 with unmeasured media comprising 83% of its total spend. As American Express has emerged over the past few years as a leader in the social media space, supporting various social media programs (such as Amex Sync with Twitter), it has seen a decrease in spend against traditional media despite relying heavily on TV to promote awareness. One could say they are potentially allocating more of their budget towards social media to support their digital services. In this example, the estimated pool of unmeasured media represents various forms of media, but if there was an ability to measure and isolate social media spend alongside other digital formats, American Express’ story could be better unlocked.
As the media space has become more fragmented with the ubiquity of digital media and consumption of different platforms, advertisers are able to expand their reach and communicate synergy with their traditional media, but the measurement of competitive spend data needs to play catch-up. So how can one address the gap in the meantime?
- Piece together disparate data streams to build an aggregated data source
While measurement is evolving and research firms are finding ways to include digital media spend in their purview of multiple media measurement, some disciplines within unmeasured media, such as online video, are becoming available as a separate product offering or with specialized digital companies. Aligning and harmonizing the multiple data streams is a must in creating an aggregate look of overall media mix.
- Explore different metrics from a different data stream to supplement spend.
If spend is not an available metric, use units, impressions, sentiment or engagement to help fill the data holes. Inferences would have to be made with these metrics (increased units or impressions could mean there was increased investment or allocation). Using spend alongside other metrics can help paint a fuller picture of how an advertiser may be targeting its audience.
Since we do not have the ability to report unmeasured media spend as AdAge does, the next best thing is to combine multiple sources and explore different metrics to supplement spend. By doing so and adding human interaction of data (harmonization) and visualization of these data streams, a more holistic story of a competitor’s strategy can emerge.