Marketing Metrics Must Be Embraced

A recent article in Advertising Age by Patrick Sarkissian garnered more than 70 comments in the three days following its posting to the Ad Age web site. The title of the article was "Why Metrics Are Killing Creativity in Advertising." The article title and message created two camps among commentators: 1) creativity is being stifled by an overuse of metrics, and 2) cries of infringement on creativity is really an unwillingness to accept accountability. Strong, passionate arguments were made for both sides of the issue.

The main concern I had after reading some comments from those persons who believed creativity is being stifled by metrics is that there is a belief among some creatives that metrics cannot (or at least should not) be applied to their work. One argument that I buy is that brand relationships are often based on emotional bonds with customers. The development and nurturing of those bonds falls into a difficult area to measure in terms of ROI. Rather than fighting the incorporation of metrics to measure advertising performance, creatives should embrace metrics with an eye toward how a creative effort can be measured during the development stage of a campaign or even a single message.

I see parallels between the views of some creatives on the use of metrics and the views of some academics on using assessment tools to evaluate student learning. Some professors complain that assessment infringes on their academic freedom to teach a subject in the manner in which they deem appropriate. On the contrary, assessment is about setting learning outcomes and measuring whether students learned (i.e., using metrics to determine performance). Investment and implementation without assessment is a scary thought, whether it be in higher education or advertising. The bottom line is accountability, and using metrics is done in the name of making people accountable for decisions and performance. While some comments to Sarkissian's article correctly point out that metrics used must be valid and measure relevant outcomes, the point that measurement of marketing investments is perhaps more necessary today than ever cannot be dismissed.

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