While many in the industry are touting the benefits of attention-based metrics, brands should not obsess over the "shiny and new" and should instead focus on how each metric meets their business objectives, believes the Asia CMO of Kraft Heinz.
Speaking at Campaign Asia-Pacific's inaugural Performance Marketing Playbook event on Thursday (December 2), Dhiren Amin advised brands to review new metrics carefully.
"Attention is a metric of viewability, and the measurement of that is not new," he said. "For example, on YouTube, you're going to measure for how long people are actually watching your content and its corresponding drop rates. On websites, you will measure bounce rate. We have to be able to distinguish between metrics that are genuinely new and useful versus ones that are old wine in a new bottle."
Amin believes it is critical for brands to link 'input metrics', such as clickthrough rates, view rates and conversions, with 'output metrics', which are business measures like sales, market share or penetration, and profitability. It is for this reason that Amin doesn't subscribe to the notion of there being one metric that is superior to others.
"Metrics need to be looked at from the perspective of what is the job you need to achieve," Amin said. "If your job is winning market share and hence you need to drive awareness, you're going to have a higher tendency to measure reach metrics. However, if you are an established brand and your job is to drive consumption growth through driving more usage, you're going to look at a metric like engagement."
The CMO's sentiment was echoed by Nathalie Pellegrini, the chief performance officer of Mindshare, who said certain metrics perform differently depending on the brand's vertical or business objective.
Pellegrini discussed how return on ad spend (ROAS) has become "more prominent with every single performance campaign" over the last few years, but similarly to Amin, she urged brands to look at the metric with "a small pinch of salt".
"We've been testing and learning recently on whether it's better to go for a conversion-rate metric or ROAS, which would actually work for your business, rather than just go with the industry standard, which is ROAS," Pellegrini said.
Likewise, Amin said "the obsession over ROAS is wrong" when each of the dozens of metrics on offer to advertisers serve a different purpose depending on your category and geography.
While both experts agreed that metrics should be evaluated equally, Amin did point out that metrics like impressions have their limitations.
"I don’t think you can have a blanket approach to say one metric doesn’t work, but I do think that, in my personal view, we should be more obsessed with earned media versus paid media, especially when it comes to awareness," he said. "For example, impressions allow us to measure the value of our paid media, but it is not a fair representation of actual reach. Impressions only measure how many people we serve, not how many people are actually influenced—whether they see it or interact with it."
The pandemic factor
The requirement for brands to shift metrics of success to meet their business goals was most visible during the extreme swings of the pandemic.
Pellegrini said that while Covid caused a surge in short-term performance metrics, the balance between performance and brand is being restored in 2021.
"Whilst everyone went to ecommerce [during the pandemic], what we noticed is with a lot of our clients, we started looking at the short-term gains rather than the long-term, especially in 2020," she said. "So looking at conversion rates, ROAS, CTR. But now what we’re seeing is the reemerging of brand and performance because things are stabilising, especially in markets that are opened up like in Hong Kong. Now we are looking at long-term sustainability, things like brand love. And new metrics are coming out from that."
The degree to which Kraft Heinz changed tack during the pandemic has been dependent on the stability of each market and on its reliance on bricks-and-mortar retail, Amin said.
"If your category is heavily dependent on bricks-and-mortar retail versus another category where originally your business was a lot more driven by ecommerce sales, your decision-making will differ. Now, let's assume that we're talking about a consumer goods company who has a reasonably large bricks-and-mortar presence. The challenge was that such companies were in the short-term going to have to push through with ecommerce to be able to ensure that our sales were protected. So the metrics would change. One would be more reliant on spending on social and digital with more conversion-driven metrics in mind."
In China, where Amin is based, the impact of the pandemic was relatively shorter compared to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, Kraft Heinz witnessed a "very large surge" in livestreaming and KOL livestreaming when the pandemic hit, which have "entirely different performance metrics" to consider.
Test and learn
While metrics of success are less proven in fast-growing channels like KOL livestreaming, Amin believes marketers should strive to invest a portion of their campaign budget into things that are new and experimental, "knowing you will fail".
"For example, if you are in Indonesia and you want to do geotargeting of retail stores connected to a mobile location-based approach, it’s so new that it’s very tough to predict whether it's going to work or not. But you have to try it if you have a need to drive direct sales," he said.
Furthermore, Pellegrini pointed out, new channels and platforms shape their advertising offering around feedback from advertisers and agencies, providing more impetus to conduct tests.
"Don't be afraid to test these new channels or technologies," she said. "If you don't test, I don't think that you will be able to grow. ou must make sure that if you fail, find out why."
The impact of privacy
Beyond the pandemic, advertisers have this year had to navigate how changes in online privacy are impacting their ability to measure and target advertising. Apple's IDFA change earlier this year, which requires users to opt-in to be tracked across apps, has had severe impacts on the measurement and targeting solutions that tech platforms like Facebook and Snap offer. Then there's the ongoing deprecation of third-party cookies, which advertisers use to track how users are behaving across websites.
Pellegrini said brands should brace for a "dip in performance" as cookies go away, but warned against placing all the blame on cookies rather than investing in the full funnel.
"Once this [the deprecation of third-party cookies] happens you will see a dip in performance because the systems are going to have to relearn and so you will have to adapt your marketing activities for that," she said. "When it happened earlier this year we wanted to blame it on iOS 14, but you need to make sure that there are other caveats, you can’t blame one channel. Understand why this is happening, go through is it because of my campaign, because of the product that I am selling, the channel mix that I am using? First go through that before you blame it on iOS 14."
She further advised: "If there is [a dip], make sure you are optimising ruthlessly through that next month. Also, you need to start looking at building those audiences back because potentially those audiences have gone. So maybe shift more budgeting to the consideration phase so you can build those audiences that have potentially been lost to drive performance."
Kraft Heinz' Amin said brands should work with the tech platforms to ensure that the privacy changes "don’t become a detriment to the measurement of our investments".
The most sustainable way forward is for brands to start relying on their own data stacks, believes Amin, but he admitted this is "extremely long-term and costly".
"The moment you move towards your own data stacks, the less you rely on other people’s data and the more secure we are in our measurement and investments," he said.