Facebook's Atlas: It's time to stop advertising based on broken measurement
A view from Damian Burns

Facebook's Atlas: It's time to stop advertising based on broken measurement

What can be done to remedy wasted adspend?

Digital advertising used to be simple. In the early 2000s, both people and marketers saw the benefits. With the advent of ubiquitous Internet access, brands had an entirely new platform with which to reach millions of potential customers.

People accepted the advertising too, as it was not too intrusive and integrated relatively well with the swathes of new, free content they were now able to instantly access and enjoy. Crucially, it was manageable for both parties – principally because it was based on one browser (Internet Explorer) and on one device (desktop).

Despite hundreds of millions of variables (users, publishers, creatives, frequency et al), the relative simplicity of this single browser, single device world made the process of digital advertising relatively manageable. It meant that marketers could use cookie-based technologies to measure what was working and what wasn’t, amend campaigns accordingly and ensure the consumer experience remained non-intrusive and even enjoyable. Everyone was happy.

The game changer

However, all that changed in 2007 with the arrival of the iPhone and mobile computing at scale. Despite the new opportunity to reach millions of potential new customers, the extrapolation of devices (smartphones, tablets) and browsers (Mozilla, Chrome) meant that advertisers had no choice but to run campaigns across a plethora of channels.

As the world has moved mobile, advertising has simply not kept up with this shift. And this puts digital advertising in a perilous position

But more routes to audience certainly did not mean a better experience – either for marketers or people. Marketers looked to transpose desktop campaign strategies and measurement technologies to mobile. As we know, this simply didn’t work. The result was poorly targeted, irrelevant ads being served incessantly and ultimately, consumer frustration.

It also meant that advertisers were not able to effectively measure the efficacy of their campaigns. They lost the ability to gain insight into what was truly working and what wasn’t. This caused a whirlpool effect, whereby they lost the ability to effectively optimise campaigns and have now ended up spending blindly, based on limited or inaccurate data. In short, measurement is broken.

As the world has moved mobile, advertising has simply not kept up with this shift. And this puts digital advertising in a perilous position. In Nielsen’s most recently published analysis of ads reaching their target audience, it revealed that 40% were missing their highest performing target. With global internet ad spend set to rise to $185.5bn (£140bn) in 2016, even if you were to be generous and bring this number down to 20%, it means that more than $35bn worth of ads are potentially missing their target. 

Big data age

The good news is that we are now at the stage where marketers don’t have to rely on guesswork and cookie-centric technologies to determine what’s working and what’s not. There are now tools built for mobile, which can show real insights from real people, regardless of device, and help marketers understand which ads drove the outcomes they value. This provides them the visibility and information to make informed decisions about what is working across multiple devices.

And fixing measurement doesn’t just benefit marketers. It gives chief executives, chief financial officers and chief information officers the opportunity to know what is and isn’t working for their businesses, so they can make informed, strategic decisions on how to evolve not just their marketing, but potentially their business. Crucially, it will stop billions of dollars being wasted. And in doing so, it will make the whole experience not just better for brands and advertisers, but the audiences they are looking to reach.

Damian Burns is the global head of Atlas by Facebook, the ad-serving and measurement company

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