January 10, 2011

Your Web Metrics Are Wrong

Last weekend I read a terrific article* entitled TV Leaking Billions Of Dollars To Online Media. It's about the fallaciousness of web metrics. In it, the author states:
...billions of dollars in sales are incorrectly being attributed to online advertisements that are completely or partially being generated by television.  This is resulting in an incorrect ratio of perceived value between television and online media...
In case you think this conclusion was reached by a TV sales rep out to make a buck, the author is Brian Burdick, who...
...led product development for Microsoft AdCenter for Search, AdCenter for Contextual, AdECN (Online Exchange), and Specific Media. Brian is an inventor of over 35 pending and granted patents in disparate types of online advertising and business intelligence. Brian is on the advisory board for Technorati and the Technology Advisory Group for Olympic Venture Partners.
Burdick made some excellent points in his article. The dumb blogger version of the points he made are these:

- You see a TV spot for Bob's Cruises. The spot tells you to go to BobsCruises.com. You go to BobsCruises.com. You sign up for a Bob's Cruise. Even though the TV spot created the demand and the web acted as a fulfillment vehicle, the web advertising gets full credit for the clicks and the sale. The TV spot gets credit for diddly.

- When DR TV ads used to direct you to an 800 number, nobody ever credited the telephone with the sale. Now that DR TV ads direct you to a web site, web hustlers are taking credit for the sale. More than 50% of DR TV sales are now made over the web.

- Online attribution systems are corrupt.
Online advertising attribution systems are assigning credit to any online advertising that may happen during navigation or general browsing after TV ads run.  Even minutes after a very high reach television spot runs... if a Google search happens to be involved – 100% of the sales attribution will likely be given to online mediums for generating the demand ...The result of this is the online advertising agencies and tracking technologies are significantly inflating their ROI calculations...
- In a test of the impact that TV advertising has on online sales, a TV campaign (with no change in online advertising) resulted in a 2000% increase in online sales. 50% of this (or a lift of 1000% in sales) would be typically attributed to Google or other online media. This is a joke. Without, TV the lift would be zero.

Brian concludes:
  • Attribution of online sales to online media is vastly overestimated
  • TV is contributing (leaking) billions of dollars in ad value to online media
  • The advertising and media industries need to figure out how to assign credit for sales properly across advertising channels
I am a copywriter, not a media expert and I've probably misinterpreted, misunderstood, or missed some fine points of the article. I strongly suggest you read it.

By the way, in my opinion, this is not only true of television. Any ad in any medium that directs you to a website or leads you to a search is probably contributing to the inflated value of online advertising.

*Big thanks to Rich Cerussi for sending me this article

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