Thursday Thought: WAH!

Stop complaining about measurement...

Greetings for part 2 of my podcast inspired newsletter series.

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Will is someone I connected with on LinkedIn, and then in the real world. He’s a great guy working for a company called Dispatch. To keep it short and sweet, they are bringing commerce to ads. As in, you can buy products directly within the ad unit experience. It’s very cool. Contact him for more info if you are either a publisher or an advertiser.

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Onto to the thought…

Thursday Thought

Tuesday’s thought was inspired by a Digiday podcast about flexibility.

I argued why flexibility is not a media strategy - and if it is, it’s a bad one.

Now I’m going to talk about measurement, inspired by an On Strategy episode.

But first, in the spirit of summer, let’s go back to the summer of 2006.

I was at Camp Westmont, where I spent 15 summers as a camper and counselor.

Those who know me well know camp is a big part of my life. So it’s no surprise it had a big impact on me then, and still lingers now.

It was my last summer as a camper, and as such, we had a legendary leader who was in charge of our group of older boys.

His name is Dave Macy.

Dave was (and still is) a Camp Westmont stalwart. He’s been manning a position of power there for many years. He’s helped guide and shape many campers lives, from young to old, and my friends and I still joke about memories with him to this day.

But Dave’s calling card was his impatience for whining.

He hated it. If you complained about anything - why you had to get up so early in the morning, why you had to clean up your bunk area, why you had to write home, why you blah blah blah - he’d hit you with his signature phrase.


It made you feel like shit. As it should.

You were literally at a summer camp. It was, for most of us, the best part of the entire year. We thought about it year round. And in the thick of it, we had the audacity to complain about cleaning up our bunk area?

Dave’s superpower was to diffuse whining with one word.

And we could really use that superpower in marketing measurement discussions.

I love the On Strategy podcast. It’s really terrific. Fergus O’Carroll is a spectacular host. I hope you listen to it, and if you don’t, I hope you start.

But his recent episode on measurement just wreaked of the problem facing marketing measurement: we complain too much about it.

The guest on the podcast waxed poetic about how it’s unfair that non-digital channels don’t have better measurement attribution.

He complained about marketers’ insistence on last touch or last click attribution.

He belabored the need for complex econometric models and market mix modeling to uncover what’s working in your marketing plans.

He went on and on and on about how we need to do better, and how we’re marching our businesses off a cliff if we don’t.

It’s hard not to relate. I wrote an 1,000 word essay last week about how it’s not cool that marketers cover their ass for attributable media channels at the expense of impactful ones.

But as I listened to the podcast, all I could hear was Dave in my ear.


I brought this up to my friend Barry and he astutely pointed out that all marketing measurement comes with an asterisk.

None of it is perfect.

And as brand marketers, we default to this argument that the reason we’re not getting budget is because we can’t prove to the C-Suite that it’s working.

We can’t show them an ROI calculation, or a non-refutable statistic that says “it works!”

The problem is is that we’ll never be able to prove it’s working without a shadow of a doubt.

But when something works, you don’t have to prove it. You can feel it.

I’ve found two compelling arguments to convince higher-ups to invest in brand building in marketing. Neither of them have to do with precise measurement or complex models.

The first is to ask senior stakeholders their favorite brands, and then show them how those brands historically invest in marketing.

The second is to stop complaining about a lack of measurement, and start focusing on if the marketing you’re doing can be felt.

Because deep down, we know if something is working or not. We just don’t want to admit it.

And there are too many free or low cost tools at your fingertips to see if people are responding to your advertising.

Google Trends to quickly assess search interest.

A search on Twitter or X if people are talking about seeing or hearing your ads.

Promo codes in your podcast buys, or a post-purchase survey to assess recall.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t calculate a precise ROI off of it.

Because usually there are early indicators - search interest or share of search, social mentions, organic site traffic, etc. - that you should feel when you turn the lights on on something impactful.

And that’s the real problem - we don’t design campaigns for impact, or hold them up to that high of a bar.

We design them for reach. We design them for interest. We design them for consideration. We design them for blah blah blah.

A litany of soft words that fall short of what we really want: impact.

Because impact should feel bigger.

It should feel like an earthquake.

There are different tremors or levels of earthquakes.

Everyone will feel a category 5 or 7 or whatever. That’s obvious.

But not everyone will feel a category 1 or 2.

Sometimes, the ground will just shake. Only for a bit.

But you should notice it shakes if you’re doing your job right.

And you don’t need a model to feel it.

You only need to keep your eyes open for the signals, and feel the ground beneath you.

If it doesn’t shake, don’t hide behind excuses, or blame an imperfect system.

Diagnose what’s going on, and see if there’s a problem that needs fixing.

Just don’t complain. Or worse, whine.

Because if you do, I give your boss or client full license to say what Dave said to all of us that summer in 2006.


Stay thinkin,