Staff Writer
Nov 1, 2016

Housekeeping your data

Benjamin Yeow looks at what comes next after you’ve harnessed the power of data

Benjamin Yeow, Publicis Media APAC
Benjamin Yeow, Publicis Media APAC
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A quick scan through any industry publication proves that companies understand the pressing need to harness data. And I agree.

However, when it comes to the “chores” behind data — the adoption of a consistent process and standard for data collection — the majority of Asian marketers are far behind. The push for the adoption of a single ad delivery and site metrics measurement standard in a multi-device, multi-touch point digital world, must be foremost in the consideration for marketing.

The world of digital media has fragmented into many different parts. A typical media plan now has investments in display, search, social, video and native content in various formats.

This fragmentation accelerates the need for a consistent set of measurement standards across the different platforms. What you can measure with consistency on one platform such as display, does not necessary translate across to social, video or even native content platforms.

The need to link successful ad delivery and business objectives on the client site (be it their own website, microsite, partner ecommerce pages, Facebook page or even their own apps) further complicates this process. The reality is that platforms will have different counting methodologies for different aspects of the ad formats that a typical campaign buys now.

This is no fault of anyone. Most marketers, agencies and even publishers simply have added on systems over time that do not necessary “speak” to each other in the same consistent technical standards. We see common examples where clients and agency teams face frustration in trying to examine results from Search and Facebook. Such occurrences are increasing every day.

In fact, across Asia, there are still publishers who do not follow international standards of measurement in basic ad delivery. Ask your agency — how many local market publishers actually follow the International IAB standards to account for ad delivery? There are some out there that use hack methods of measurement to claim their site delivery numbers.

For TV, there is Nielsen/TNS. Print: clients still require tear sheets (yes, even in this day and age). Outdoor: picture proof that the ad is up. When it comes to digital — we trust the numbers on an excel report. This is not on.

What it boils down to is that marketers now need to think about systems and ad operations as a singular function to ensure consistency in delivery and data collection. Having fancy systems without the people to run it and ensure the rigour in data collection quality is also pointless.

An investment in an ad operation team would kick-start the journey to a consistent single data source of data across the myriad digital investments. “Ad operations” refer to technology systems and workflow processes that support the correct delivery, targeting verification, and reporting of online ads delivery and their subsequent user activity on the landing destination.

Standardised ad operations are essential in this multi-device, digital age where every cookie, device ID and exposure details matters.  Lofty goals to “minimise duplication”, “extend reach beyond display” and “re-targeting” all require technology to do so. A consistent data collection process also allows for advanced analytics be applied to give insight to better media investment and understanding of the consumer path from convergence and conversion.

Why, then, aren't digital ad operations standardised by now in Asia?

People don’t tend to focus on examining ad operations in the development of the media business. This has been, unfortunately, true since historical television times — the media agency’s role has been to plan, secure best spots and work with the creative agency to produce an asset that is delivered by tape or digitally.

TV had over 40+ years to standardise their current method of measurement and adoption across markets and the industry. TV measurement is measured by either Kantar, TNS or Nielsen. There is no such service for digital media simply because it’s “virtual”.

Digital media, unfortunately, has a shorter time frame and accelerated developments in many new areas. Google for example, adds on many enhancements and changes to their technology systems for AdWords, YouTube and Android platforms. Those hundreds of new changes every year mean digital practitioners need to be aware of and determine what the impact is to ad delivery and reporting for that point of time. Add on your Facebook, Weibo, native content and programmatic platforms — it gets worse.

Compare this to the TV process — we need to know what new shows are coming up and send the TVC over. Done.

Add on shortage of talent, lack of ad technology adoption and measurement understanding and the client’s thinking that a digital planner can do everything.  It all leads to a lot of ad hoc process hacked together. 

Clients need to realise there is a cost attached to ensure consistency in the ad operations functions — where the right technology and process ensures the right delivery and data collection according to business goals. The planning commission clients pay now does not cover the implementation rigor and expertise required.

Larger agencies are now realising there needs to be a better process and central control of the ad delivery process. This means technology usage and people to manage it. At Publicis Media, we have streamlined this diverse expertise into the Technology and Activation Group to assist our media teams and clients in this area.

Publicis Media has introduced a formal structure and process to align our clients to best practices in technology and campaign tracking. We are also in the midst of a formal workflow system to help keep track of the myriad of elements in a campaign launch and ongoing life cycle.

For clients, consider the fact that digital campaigns are going to get more complex, more fragmented and segmented. What happens when Smart TV, VR engagements and The Internet of Things add even more layers of complexity? How are you going to ensure a consistent measurement of the right things for your organisation?

Brands need to wisely choose their vendors and consider what exactly needs to be measured.

If the goal is to “increase brand awareness”, then consider “what is the measurement of brand awareness”. One then reviews whether a brand awareness study has been employed, or if we are using technology to measure audience reach as a start.

Standardisation is again essential when you integrate dashboards, where consistency is integral to the naming of campaigns, creatives, and the versions of which so that all data makes sense before you can even unleash your analytics team on the data.

Final word: data comes from common standards and measurement. Without that, all the talk on harnessing large data is pointless. To all marketers: invest in your ad operations technology and team.

Benjamin Yeow is TAAG (Technology And Activation Group) Practice Lead at Publicis Media APAC.

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