Don’t Fix What’s Broken. Reinvent the Wheel with a Unified Measurement Framework

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Walled gardens, blind spots, and data limitations mean we have to rethink our approach to measurement.

In a time of disruption, businesses need to learn to be adaptive to survive. Being adaptive means reevaluating what once worked and now might not. Being in the analytics realm, I’ve witnessed our insights ecosystem challenged in ways that simply hold it back.

Many advertisers approach Unified Measurement with the idea that you can just combine Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) and Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) with customer data and fulfill the promise of a single version of the truth.

However, all things are not equal, and MMM and MTA should not have equal footing. Most brand leaders can attest that when looking through the MMM/MTA lens, on average, the majority of the impact in Unified Measurement is coming from MMM versus MTA. In fact, in my own review of activities with marketers, I’ve seen about 80% of the impact coming from MMM and only 20% coming from MTA.

This smaller impact contribution from MTA also comes in the face of MTA being problematic, given walled gardens, blind spots, and data limitations — all of which have reached a breaking point in recent months. And while MTA is not “dead,” per se, we must admit that it is extremely challenged.

We can’t sweep the issues under the rug and pretend that it is business as usual. Advertisers must shift their attribution approach to address these challenges. By analyzing “touchpoints” rather than falsely believing you can connect measurement across disparate and deeply disconnected “multi-touches,” marketers and their agencies can get deep, user-level analyses within the channels that matter while leveraging a holistic measurement framework to bring it all together.

While it’s clear that MMM is overall more valuable, I’ve still seen a wide variation in speed, quality, and granularity across insights produced under the umbrella of MMM. Frankly, I have been concerned with what I have uncovered when reviewing advertisers’ existing models: When I look at the quality of some of the analyses marketers share with me, it is clear why MMM is (incorrectly) viewed by some as a slow method yielding results that are too high-level to be actionable. For MMM to be successful and effective, it’s key to go to a deeper, more granular level and produce actionable insights faster.

While MMM has its place, the implications of today’s somewhat messy environment necessitate a move beyond MMM and MTA to a more advanced Commercial Mix Modeling (CMM) approach: a path that takes the ecosystem realities into account. We need an approach that can not only tell you what happened but also lend insights into what you need to do next.

Moving to a Commercial Mix Modeling approach would allow advertisers to be:

  • More granular: by geography, store, channel, and persona
  • More holistic: going beyond media and marketing for a full business view
  • More flexible – enable multiple views of data and insight to address a spectrum of strategic and tactical questions
  • More adaptive – allow seamless integration with other solutions

By addressing the whole business at a more granular level, Commercial Mix Modeling can act as a foundation for a more unified picture of what’s working and what isn’t. With a Commercial Mix lens at the center, we could gain a holistic picture of the business by customizing models to address specific market, brand, and business challenges.

By facing the harsh truth that we need to lean into disruption – instead of patching up past approaches or creating inadequate work-arounds – our industry will build something better that helps us increase value in our marketing spend. Shifting to CMM would provide a framework to address the full business (not just marketing) needs, and help us all be ready to adapt through data-driven decision making. And when you can adapt, you can build competitive advantage, evolve, and thrive.

Nancy Smith is CEO of Analytic Partners.