The Dicey World Of Digital Metrics

“What’s going on here?”

Those were the words my three-year-old granddaughter uttered every time waves knocked down the sandcastles we were building on the beach last week. She was giggling wildly every time she said it.

As I write this, I too must ask, “What’s going on here?” — except it’s difficult to giggle.

The headlines this past week regarding the state of digital metrics were as positive for that industry as the Stormy Daniels headlines have been for Trump.

I get the need for metrics, although I “get” it slightly less when I read comments like the following from an “advertising holding company executive,” who was quoted in a Business Insider article stating, “The measurement metrics mishaps to date are mostly vanity metrics. Should future compromises actually impact business outcomes, then that’s going to have implications from an investment standpoint.”

OK, are these “vanity metrics” as they were referred to important or not, or are they being used simply as a way to rationalize media selection?

Check out the following headlines from the past week:

March 29, 2018: WARC (World Advertising Research Center): Three in four clicks on desktop half page ads are fraudulent and, on average, one in three (32%) clicks on programmatic ads across all sizes and platforms is fraudulent.

March 29, 2018: The Wall Street Journal: 28% Of Website Traffic Shows ‘Non-Human Signals’:  An Adobe study showed that 28% of website traffic exhibits strong “non-human signals,” suggesting that the traffic came from bots or click farms. The study looked at traffic across websites from thousands of clients.

March 29, 2018: WARC (World Advertising Research Center): As little as 28% of advertisers’ programmatic expenditure may actually make it to the working media level, as agency fees, the “tech tax,” and ad fraud all eat into the $63.4bn spent worldwide last year.

WARC defined “tech tax” as the “supply chain” costs, i.e. trading desks, demand-side platforms, exchanges and the processes of data, targeting, and verification.

The Association of National Advertisers had this figure even lower, when during their October 2017 Master of Marketing Conference, their CEO showed a slide stating, “Only 25% of the marketer’s digital dollar reaches the consumer.”

March 29, 2018: Global Viewability: Video Improves, Display Lags: Around the world, reported average ad viewability from MRC-accredited companies for video stands at 60% while display is just under 50%.

March 27, 2018: Facebook And The Trust Gap: Fewer than half of American respondents to a Reuters/Ipsos survey trust Facebook to comply with privacy laws, a sign that the social network has much work to do to maintain trust.

Speaking of trust, compare the sentiments above to the chart below, which quantifies what type of ads U.S. Internet users trust when making a purchase decision:


March 24, 2018: Facebook Pledges Actions To Stem Advertiser Exits: A handful of marketers suspended advertising on Facebook, Inc. as the company hustled to quell anxiety about its platform in the wake of revelations that an outside company improperly handled data on tens of millions of its users.

This is on top of previous Facebook data issues:

Facebook previously revealed that the number of fake or illegitimate accounts on the platform were about double what was previously reported, stating it has about 270,000,000 phony accounts. That means the number of bogus accounts on Facebook is greater than the entire adult population of the U.S.

Facebook overstated video viewing figures by as much as 80%.

Facebook claimed it had 65 million subscribers in the U.S. aged 20 to 29 — almost 20 million more than the entire population of that age group in the U.S.

There is zero question that we as an industry need to get our own “accountability” and metrics house in order, stat.

But in the meantime, while it might be viewed as blasphemous by the ad community to keep the genuflection to a minimum at the metrics altar, doing so could lead to more effective media plans via the right balance between traditional and digital media.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at

This blog was previously featured in Radio Ink.

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