Evaluating Integrated Communications

The evaluation of integrated campaigns is a topic rarely looked at by the mainstream marketing press. Flick through the pages of Campaign, Marketing, Marketing Week or niche publications like New Media Age and barely a nod is cast in the direction of campaign evaluation. Why? It’s simply assumed and taken for granted that campaign evaluation ‘works’. After all, each marketing channel has its own tried and tested method of measuring effectiveness and verifying ROI.

To most commentators schooled in their various areas of marketing expertise, it would seem that all is rosy in the land of campaign evaluation. Of course, to some extent it is but wait, what happens when the optimum marketing solution is an integrated campaign that involves nine different marketing channels? How do you compare TV awareness recall with Online Price Per Click? How do you compare rail station poster reach with a Sunday Times leaflet drop? In effect, how does one evaluate not only the campaign itself but the efficacy of each marketing discipline against another?

This is altogether a different problem and one which the marketing industry hasn’t fully come to grips with, especially in an era of massive media fragmentation. As a result, it is currently impossible to compare disciplines in a way that is commercially relevant from a wider strategic perspective. How does one advise a company’s board that it would be more effective to spend £3 million on a television campaign than spend the equivalent figure on a combination of direct mail, sales promotion and an online banner campaign?

It has been advocated that a ‘gold standard’ of integrated campaign measurement could be possible – a single benchmark that works as well for television as for newspapers, as accurately for direct mail as sales promotion. That this hasn’t been achieved already is a combination of two factors: firstly the difference between the various advertising channels has been too wide, and secondly the vested interests controlling each media channel have acted solidly as a barrier to real integration.

So, what is the way to breach this impasse? Data. The modern era of digital technological solutions lends itself to the collation and analysis of data with unprecedented accuracy. For example, ‘reach’ is a measurement that all the various advertising channels have in common. It is now possible to calculate reach with an accuracy never before seen – in Times Square, New York, billboards actually contain digital cameras which physically calculate how many people are looking at the poster images at any given time. The ideal solution is therefore quite straightforward: collect all the data you can gather and then analyse and report on the results using an internet-based business model.

Take an integrated campaign for a leading consumer brand. With TV media it is possible to obtain figures for reach, awareness and even ITV figures. This data is inputted into a central campaign database in conjunction with results for other advertising channels such as direct marketing, sales promotion, online advertising, email marketing etc.

Within the central database, it is then crucial that all the different metrics are paralleled. Each advertising channel metric will also contain both a ‘known’ and an ‘unknown’. The known refers to a statistic that is provable such as visitors to a website whereas the unknown consists of an educated guess, such as how many people will scan a newspaper print ad. Both sets of statistics are added to the central campaign database and skewed using mathematical modelling to give a hugely accurate effectiveness profile for each media.

Of course, there will be limitations with the data and certain media will give far more accurate statistics than others but the challenge is simply to attain the very best data available for every media used. Obviously, the central campaign database must be exceedingly well designed to allow such complex mathematical modelling, but the expertise is certainly available – it is just a question of resource allocation and dedication. The benefits are clear: not only can integrated campaigns be evaluated accurately but also campaigns can be analysed in real time allowing creative and media to be tested ‘live’. The integrated campaign can then be tweaked throughout its course to give a vastly improved ROI.

With every passing year, data accuracy is becoming increasingly sharper and more refined. As digital and technological applications infiltrate every media channel (not just online solutions), marketers are going to have fewer excuses for not dedicating time and energy to real time campaign analysis. To date this has not been the case, and back-end analysis and campaign collation have rarely been considered as important as front end planning and campaign management. £millions will be allocated to television, £100,000’s to print media yet very little is usually invested in data collation.

Marketers’ mindsets will need to change before integrated campaign evaluation takes an equal seat alongside planning, strategy, creative, etc. However, in the new digital age, such is the quality of data now on offer to marketers that those brands and agencies who embrace this information will gain a notable competitive advantage. Likewise, those brands that don’t pay attention to the data now available will suffer accordingly. In a nod to the increasing importance of data and research, Campaign magazine ran an article late last year entitled ‘The Golden Age of Planning’. They should have also added, ‘and Campaign Analysis’. In conclusion, there is no doubt we are entering the new era of data.

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