Is the search for ads-to-sales accurate measurement like the Holy Grail – always out of reach?

Is it ever possible to correlate brand advertising and sales data? Obviously sales sometimes go up when you advertise, at others they don’t. But, some will doubtless argue, the numbers would have been even worse without the ads.

It’s surely possible to compute accurately how many people see an ad but even here advertisers struggle: does the fraction of a second people see an online ad actually mean anything? Far fewer see TV ads or posters but they see them for longer – so might do something or, at least, think.

But there’s no data set that lines up online and other media. They’re trying in the US with the he Cross Media Measurement initiative, a set of pilots with VideoAmp and Comscore, and, in the UK with Origin, backed by a number of advertisers. But legacy media doesn’t trust the online gang (especially the ‘walled garden’ crew at Meta, Google and Amazon) not to fiddle the numbers while advertisers think legacy media is dragging its heels.

Then there’s programmatic, which could hardly be more absurd with so many middle men – DSPs and SSP’s – in the mix that just 36% actually reaches publishers. Even the mighty engine of MAA suffers from this.

P&G’s Marc Pritchard (left), probably the world’s most high profile marketer, bemoaned this recently at the ANA (Association of National Advertisers.) He said: “Why do we miss out on investing in effective media? One reason is lack of measurement that matters.”

P&G, he said, is inundated with multiple measurement currencies such as impressions, ratings, clicks, likes, engagement, followers, view-through rates and more. “These are nice to have, but they’re diagnostics. The currency that matters is sales dollars.

“It’s time to innovate on measurement that proves sales effectiveness in an easier, faster, more reliable way,” he told Ad Age, which will in turn increase spending on media.

P&G is one of the world’s biggest advertisers, in fact it’s built its business on it and still seems to be doing pretty well. But is what Pritchard wants actually possible when 60% of advertising is on the internet and the rest somewhere else, where people consume it in a totally different way?

Looks like we’ll all be going round in circles for a while yet.

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