Numbers don’t lie, but they often don’t tell the whole story.
We live in (and have been for a while) a metric driven world when it comes to marketing. Often the metric involves measuring quantity over quality (yes, you can measure quality). We’ve seen more tangible results from PR placements in regional newspapers than we have in national ones, but that’s a topic for another time.
Yahoo! once claimed that a streamed Bills versus Jaguars game resulted in more than 33 million streams.
Impressive!!! Right? Maybe?!?
In reality, those 33 million streams were 15.2 million unique viewers and 460 million minutes of football. The live stream actually averaged less than 2.4 million viewers per minute, compared to an average of 10 to 20 million viewers through traditional broadcast and cable for most NFL games.
That means that if you went to Yahoo! to look up the number for your local dog groomer or search news on mortgage rates, you may have been counted as ‘watching’ the game.
Who cares about why they watched it, as long as we have the impression numbers to show for it 😉
This is one of the chief reasons we don’t compare PR/editorial value to ad value and I’d be hard pressed to tell you at home broadcast/cable views are the same as streaming views on a phone, tablet, etc., whether in the home or not. They’re all different. They all have value, but those values are different as well.
Yes, impression numbers are incredibly important in our world, but impression numbers alone shouldn’t be how you measure the success of your campaign.
For those that feel we’re calling out digital ad agencies unfairly here, I’ll put the focus on the PR/media relations industry. A tried and true (and lazy) method of measuring a PR program’s success is impression numbers. How many people saw X on TV last night, or subscribe to that magazine, etc. If a client asks, for impression numbers, we happily pass them over, but with the caveat that we don’t believe for one second that X number of people actually saw the article with the client in it.
While we won’t be so bold as to call this a fact, it’s the truth. Impression numbers don’t equate to recognition, brand message retention or in the case of Yahoo!’s auto-play of the football game, intention.
In reality, impression numbers are estimates of how many may have been in the vicinity of your message. And nothing more.
Numbers alone don’t tell the story of a campaign’s success and unfortunately, as the media landscape continues to fragment and more brands leverage the tools at their disposal, almost all marketers are having to do more to achieve the same or even less results as they saw the year before.
Any marketing / PR / advertising person that doesn’t tell you this upfront isn’t necessarily lying, but they’re not telling you everything they know either.
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