Are You Trusting The Wrong Numbers?


(By Bob McCurdy) To maximize revenue in 2017 and beyond we need to expertly mesh digital with on-air.  Digital is as necessary as fruits and vegetables are to a balanced diet, but every so often some additional “traditional” protein is needed to bring back balance.

We’ve all run into situations where a client’s media allocation begins to drift away from traditional.  When this occurs, it’s imperative that we work with our clients to restore channel symmetry, which means we must revisit and reframe the media mix conversation.

John Ounpuu, co-founder of digital agency Modern Craft, addressed some of the reasons for digital asymmetry recently in an article titled “Our Risky Obsession with New and Shiny Tech,” writing, “I believe many modern marketers are increasingly plagued by a nagging fear of missing out and losing relevance.  I call it ‘marketing FOMO.’ It’s a powerful driver—re-enforced by a daily avalanche of hype about new trends and tech.  Many of us are also tempted by the lure of the easy win—the quest for a silver bullet.  Others long to absorb the sex appeal of the tech world by osmosis.  Still others are simply looking to win attention by being the first to try something new.”

Mr.  Ounpuu is extremely perceptive.  Embracing the latest digital media channel often leads to industry panels, trade coverage, and even promotion.  It’s this FOMO mindset that makes it incumbent upon us to be familiar with digital’s yin and yang.  It’s difficult to escape digital’s daily positive “yang,” what follows are some of its digital video and banner “yin.”

Facebook’s VP of Measurement and Insights, Brad Smallwood, wrote in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Advertising Research, “Marketers have focused on measuring what they could.  Sometimes that measurement has come in lieu or at the expense of what should have been measured.  The lure of the measurable and traceable ‘shiny’ metrics, such as social media users’ ‘likes,’ ‘shares,’ message posts and ‘clicks,’ has led marketers to endless, often beautifully crafted, intricate reports on the irrelevant.  We continue to tell you how many ‘clicks’ your video has generated, even though we have proven that clicks bear no correlation to sales.”

Ad tech firm InSkin Media utilized eye-tracking measurement, concluding that online ads need to be on the screen for 14 seconds to have any chance of being viewed.  This in spite of the MRC defining a visible video unit as having 50% of its pixels in sight for only 2 seconds.

GroupM’s definition of a viewable ad differs greatly from above as they define it as 100% of pixels exposed for at least half of a message’s duration.   In Q1 2016, only 33% of Facebook video ads bought by GroupM qualified as “viewable” per the MRC’s definition but by GroupM’s definition the figure was only 2%.  Forty-six percent of Twitter’s inventory qualified as “viewable” per the MRC’s definition, but only 0.3% per GroupM’s definition.

Nielsen’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Hasker, was quoted in Q3 as saying, “Let me give you one truth.  If you added up the ROI metrics that are espoused by many, many publishers, many, many data providers, the U.S.  GDP would double every six months.  There’s so much BS in the marketplace.”

Facebook had to apologize recently for an error in the way it measured video viewership with Publicis Media being told that Facebook metrics overestimated the average time spent watching videos up to 80%.

In August, Jonah Goodhart, CEO and co-founder of Moat, a respected analytics firm, noted that roughly half of all online ads are “non-viewable” due to ad blocking, bots, and similar issues.

Also in August an article titled, “Fraud, Ad Blockers Ruin Digital Metrics,” chronicled the steady increase in IVT, invalid traffic.  The article went on to state that the steady increase in IVT and the growing popularity of ad blocking have combined to “undermine the integrity of every other performance and effectiveness metric” according to a leading executive from ComScore.

Speaking of ComScore, writing in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Advertising Research, Gian Fulgoni, the co-founder/Chairman Emeritus of comScore, cited a recent Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) report that estimated marketers will waste some $7 billion globally in 2016 buying online ads that people never see.

Metrics everywhere but how accurate? Can misleading digital metrics be contributing to the misallocation of marketing resources, causing more damage than the absence of any data?

For those infected with digital FOMO, let’s talk their language.   We might ask them if they’d consider purchasing an audio service with:

–         Over 10,000 spoken word, information and music “streams.”

–         Geo-targeting capability by BDI and CDI (Brand and Category Development index).

–         No monthly fee and accessible 24/7.

–         All necessary hardware dispersed nationwide.

–         An average of 20 million average active sessions and near universal monthly usage.

–         Gender and demo targeting accuracy matching Mobile’s.

–         Attractive CPMs.

Hello radio.

Perspective and balance will continue to remain important components to any effective media plan in 2017 and beyond.   The perfect medium has yet to grace this earth and there are times when we need to play the role of symmetry watchdog to keep our clients’ media vision 20/20 and their media diet balanced.  If any client wants proof of performance, all we need do is to discuss the incredibly positive Nielsen ROAS radio studies that demonstrate and quantify radio’s powerful, positive impact.

Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. A well-written column, Bob. My compliments.

    In your own future offerings, be careful of “beautifully crafted, intricate reports on the irrelevant”, as you put it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here