Brand and advertising tracking research has long been a trusted tool for marketers to measure the effectiveness of advertising and other marketing initiatives. Even during the time when the media landscape was dominated by television, advertising effectiveness measurement was a complex task, which required a diligent approach and a sound understanding of how media interacts with consumers and vice versa.
In current times, with the advent of multiple media platforms coupled with the emergence of social media, measurement of advertising effectiveness has assumed critical importance. The increasing fragmentation of the media landscape, higher clutter in traditional media platforms, higher overlaps of exposure across media platforms and difficulty of measuring impact of new platforms like social media, in-game, in-movie etc., have all resulted in increasing the complexity of measuring the effectiveness of advertising.
Consequently, brand and advertising tracking has had to continuously evolve with this pace of change. The word ‘measurement’ has taken on an altogether new meaning for a marketer. Measurement has now moved on from a completely ‘reactive’ process to a more and more ‘proactive’ process. Previously, brand and advertising research was used to monitor the impact of advertising, take appropriate steps and move on. It was a marketer’s tool to evaluate and understand the impact of the advertising and communication creation processes and whether there is a significant ROI. Increasingly, continuous research is being used to develop, not only new advertising ideas, but also strategies centred around media planning, allocation of media spends, formulating media spends etc. To achieve these new objectives, advertising researchers have concentrated on the development of ‘benchmarks’ or ‘norms’. One can question at this stage, as to why benchmarks or norms are important. Essentially, benchmarks can be challenged on two accounts, one that they are reflective of past behaviour and secondly future behaviour is very difficult to predict. This can be taken as a reasonably strong argument, but benchmarks or norms can be used effectively to predict future behaviour, with some sets of assumptions.
Let us take a look at how this can be done with a simple example:
A brand which spent xxx GRPs on an advertising campaign 3 months earlier, achieved x% reach levels among the target audience and the brand achieved y% spontaneous awareness levels after the advertising campaign was aired. Continuous tracking also found that among the y% that was aware of the brand, z% actually went on and tried the brand. After this the trials for the brand have declined and the marketer wants to undertake another media burst to push up the awareness again, which should lead to trials. But how many GRPs would be required to attain z% trial levels again? Can a continuous tracking research answer this question?
A continuous tracking program with established benchmarks would definitely point at factors that led to past successes in terms of attaining awareness and trial levels. More importantly, it will be able to bring out how the levels were attained not only by spending the same level of media money, but also by factors like market condition, market structure, nature of the brand, competitor activity, seasonality, consumer confidence etc. The biggest challenge for a successful brand and advertising tracking research is to be ‘future-proof’ and have the ability to act as a sounding board for future media and communication decisions. The emergence of new media platforms has only made this process more challenging and complex. Developing benchmarks in the present media landscape requires consideration of multimedia campaigns, extent of overlap across media platforms, nature and amount of exposure, measurement of online campaign reach etc.
But, it has only given an opportunity to advertising and brand research functions to make themselves more powerful and reliable in the domain of effectiveness measurement.