Unfit Metrics

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Unfit Metrics

For some time now the industry has faced a problem with its basic metrics. I say ‘faced’ although the truth is we haven’t faced up to the issue at all, doing that curious media dance of sticking our fingers in our ears, twirling round three times, clicking our heels and hoping the problem will go away.

Take basic words like ‘viewer’, or ‘reach’? What do they actually mean? Why can’t we agree on a set of common definitions? Surely if they’re to be useful the same word should mean basically the same thing whichever media form it’s applied to?

Sometimes the issue is less to do with what something means as with its relevance. It is dangerous to assume a word means what you want it to mean, or that its relevance has survived the shifting of tectonic plates.

When I was an active planner SoV, share-of-voice was a big deal.

Understanding competitors’ creative and media activities was a standard feature of every campaign evaluation, forcing me to consider what others were doing. These evaluations made us raise our eyes from our own assumed brilliance to learn from others.

SoV was also considered as an input to plans. ‘We aim to maintain / increase our share-of-voice’ read far too many briefs. This assumes the planner possesses some magical predictive power enabling foresight into what competitors were planning. How else could a plan predict a share-of-voice?

Many studies advocate spending ahead of share-of-market. Excess share-of-voice is necessary to build market share. Retrospectively this may be so, but how can it be planned for?

The biggest problem with share-of-voice as a retrospective metric is that it relies on available adex or analysable audience data. That made some sense when the majority of most major brands’ media spend was on media forms where brand expenditure and exposure data was collected and reported upon across the industry. Media forms like TV, or press.

But that is no longer the case. Owned and retail media forms are growing, as are online channels where data is limited / non-existent.

So share-of-voice is based on data from media forms that no longer represent anything like the majority of a brand’s communication focus. It doesn’t include most of the places where brands spend their budgets. Drawing conclusions from it can be highly misleading.

It makes more sense to examine activity from the other end of the telescope; moving from what’s transmitted to what’s received.

The IPA has recognized the importance of owned media and has worked with MESH Experience on why owned channels are so important and how to create tools to measure them.

This allows brand owners to assess the relative importance of all relevant communication channels – from paid-for advertising channels through retail media to owned websites, vehicles or shop windows.

In her IPA work MESH’s Fiona Blades demonstrates how MESH is able to calculate an Experience Impact Score (EIS) for all brands within a category. A little like a comms-focussed NPS.

It would make a lot more sense to consider share-of-experience (SoE) over SoV as a metric in evaluating competitive activities.

SoE allows brands to look solely at paid-for ad media, or indeed owned or earned channels; it also highlights the means used by competitive brands so that particular and specialised techniques can be used to examine a particular brand’s use of a particular channel.

In every case the data is based on what’s received, and what’s noticed. And, if it isn’t noticed why does it matter anyway?

Share-of-voice has been useful; it’s time to lay it to rest.

This piece was originally published in the Media Leader on February 6th.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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