WFA says advertisers are not waving but drowning in data – and mobile is going to make it far worse

New research from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and Warc has highlighted the changes that brands face in dealing with the torrent of data being generated by digital channels.

A survey of senior marketers with global or regional responsibilities at major multinational brands found that many fear they will drown in data and as a result are looking for ways to simplify the number of key performance indicators they monitor. This is partly driven by the understanding that as new platforms, such as mobile, become more important, it will greatly increase the number of data points being generated by their marketing. Fifty per cent cited the number of data sources as a barrier to successful online measurement.

The Digital KPIs Research was based on responses from 25 companies across 11 categories including food, pharmaceuticals and toys. Respondents had responsibility for approximately $35bn in total marketing spend.

The majority of respondents are currently tracking between five and ten different digital KPIs but 24 per cent of respondents are already monitoring 10-15 and eight per cent are tracking of 16-20 while just 12 per cent keep an eye on less than five indicators. 72 per cent of respondents thought their current data load was about right but 20 per cent conceded that it was too many.

Increasingly the language of paid, owned and earned media is now being adopted by the world’s biggest advertisers in an attempt to understand how each area contributes to results. More than half of respondents now use this terminology to classify their digital performance and a further 12 per cent plan to do so in the future.

Additional findings from the report include:

* Dashboards providing real time updates of key measures are seen as critical to translating data into an easy to use form but some brands fear this process could go too far. ‘Death by dashboard’ is a real risk and some organisations report that more than ten different dashboards have been developed globally. Lack of dedicated resources (cited by 74 per cent of respondents), a shortage of knowledge among marketing teams (70 per cent) as well as specific gaps in online ROI expertise (57 per cent) are seen as the main barriers to successful online measurement.

*Social media is being tracked differently to other online activity – the same is also true of mobile – with greater emphasis on targeting fans and followers, tracking engagement and analyzing sentiment compared to a focus on requests, registrations, clicks and traffic for other online activity. 75 per cent of respondents use specific tools for measuring social media but a shortage of resources as well as a lack of clarity about what vendors offer are seen as barriers to success.

*Standardising digital Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across markets, linking KPIs to sales and creating aggregated dashboards for online metrics are the main priorities for marketers in this area over the next 12 months.

WFA managing director Stephan Loerke (left) says; “Measuring marketing performance is very often the first step to improving outcomes and setting clear, relevant KPIs are essential to this process. Managing the data that these KPIs create is a challenge but one that in most cases has to be tackled internally and marketers need to resource this area.

“The challenge of managing and creating business opportunity from big data has really only just started and it will be critical to business success in the future.”

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