Waste can be defined as misdirected marketing resources – or mistargeted advertising. In any event, waste is truly the enemy of marketers. Like most enemies, it doesn't always make itself obvious. Waste often occurs in the shadows, undetected until after the results are in. And then time is spent trying to figure out what happened, why it happened and how to fix it next time.

Waste is sometimes based on miscalculating media allocations or appearing in irrelevant brand programs or on less relevant sites. Or measuring outputs that don't provide the best data for determining the right outcomes. While the apparent achievement of certain goals can be met along the way, the anticipated end result can be missed. That means that certain deliverables sometimes create a false sense of security in what we really want to accomplish.

Oftentimes, assumptions are made based on previous activities and then calculations are made to determine what the expectations should be. But they are just that -- calculations based on assumptions from previous results. Sometimes they are reasonably accurate, sometimes not. But, if we keep in mind that markets are never quite actually in equilibrium, then we should not expect complete accuracy of future results. Remember too that while there are media impressions bought programmatically in real time (RTB), oftentimes data that is being used is not real time data.

Waste also occurs when costs are disengaged from productivity. As we all know, there is a real difference between expense and investment. Marketing is too often viewed as an expense, when in fact it should be considered an investment because there is always an expected return on marketing. What needs to be done, therefore, is that ROI should be a continuous measurement with benchmarks established during the process so there can be a better determination of the expected result.

With the explosion of digital measurement on all fronts, advertising metrics are integral to the continuous evaluation of a campaign in progress. Whether traditional or digital media are being employed, advertisers can no longer wait for results after the fact or use data that is not the most current. Outcomes must come from the systematic analysis of data during a campaign using ongoing monitoring to gain insight along the way and minimize the need for capricious assumptions or unpredictable post evaluations. And, it's not just about data alone, but analytical evaluation and interpretation -- in other words, insight.

A further way of examining cost is, of course, to insure that all appropriate variables are considered in the equation. This means not only marketing and media deliverables and media efficiency, but also evaluating the effort used to produce those outcomes. In other words, what's being put in versus what's being taken out. When it comes to fees based on time spent, scope of work is, of course, a critical factor. But that's a relatively smaller portion of the overall cost. Fees for service should be benchmarked along with evaluation of deliverables because simply putting in time doesn't assure a better result. There are industry benchmarks for service fees as well as marketing and media deliverables. While measurements can be established for both qualitative and quantitative criteria, the answer to obtaining the best results lies in developing the right metrics at the right time and incorporating the appropriate data points into the right activities in order to produce the best outcomes. That's the kind of insight that can make a real difference in reducing waste.

Mike Drexler is currently a Managing Partner at Drexler/Fajen & Partners, a media agency review firm that works with advertisers to evaluate their agencies’ performance. He can be reached at mike@drexlerfajen.com.

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