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Digital marketing needs to ‘wipe the slate clean’ on metrics, says former Wunderman CEO

The former head of one of the world’s largest digital agency has said there is a need to simplify digital metrics as marketers grow more confused by the glut of platforms each with their own measurement systems.

Daniel Morel former Wumderman boss

In a candid interview with Mumbrella at Socialbakers’ Engage conference in Bali, Daniel Morel, who presided over Wunderman for almost two decades before retiring last year, said that brands weren’t testing their campaigns adequately in a world that is moving too fast, and there needed to be greater effort to tie digital marketing to what really matters – sales.

The Frenchmen also warned that a period of consolidation is to come for tech platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and SnapChat because there isn’t sufficient capital and marketing spend to support them all.

In response to a question about the reliability of metrics for marketers in the modern era compared to the TV era he’d grown up with, Morel referred to when Nielsen was the predominant and trusted system for audience measurement, “and they had 50 years worth of data.”

“The digital world is different. There are so many platforms, and each is producing their own data.”

“Facebook will tell you that after running a campaign with them, sales have lifted by X%. But how do they measure that? I don’t know,” he told Mumbrella.

“Each and every outfit has a different methodology, so we don’t have a gold standard that is linked to sales.”

“So you go down the metrics pecking order. People will say, we can’t measure sales, but we can measure awareness. And that is measured by the number of people who saw the ad.

“But people are coming back with other measures such as the number of likes or the number of clicks that have nothing to do with sales.”

“So the poor young marketing director who’s trying to do something different has to do a bit of gymnastics and pull from every possible source of results he’s given to make his point.”

“I’m still puzzled by the fact that, as an industry, we don’t push ourselves hard enough to go down the sales metric route,” he said.

Morel suggested that “the slate will have to be wiped clean” and marketers given a simpler way to figure out what’s driving sales and what isn’t. “We have to make things simpler again,” he said.

Under pressure to show results, marketers were not always testing using meaningful data, rather “directional evidence”, Morel noted.

“The world is moving so fast that I don’t know if people are testing anymore. Yes, they are testing the quality of the content, they are testing awareness, but not the impact on sales,” he commented.

The Frenchman, who passed the torch at Wunderman last year after 14 years leading the business, was asked about the nature of trust between clients and agencies in this era, particularly in light of a report that revealed a lack of transparency in the US and the news of an agency overbilling a client in Japan.

He said that he didn’t think the Dentsu saga “puts into question what people are doing in digital” and suggested that the affair was “probably a matter of sloppy reporting.”

“There are more checks and balances today. If you have more checks and balances, unless you check all the checks and all the balances, people will have doubt in the back of their heads. And as soon as it surfaces it will jeopardise even a long relationship.”

“In former days, there were fewer checks and balances and the system was less sophisticated. It’s not that people were less honest or more trustworthy – not at all. It’s just that you have a lot of ways to analyse and report things, and there’s a greater need for transparency and clarity,” said Morel.

The former Wunderman boss predicted a “period of consolidation” for digital media platforms, saying that there would be a “clean up” of the industry to come.

Twitter“A lot of things will disappear. Look at the performance of Twitter. Everyone was dreaming about Twitter, now nobody wants it, because they don’t know what to do with it,” he said.

“There was a lot of talk about Pinterest, but this is a business that needs to get going otherwise it’ll end up where Twitter is.”

“All these platforms are not producing sales, they are burning through the initial cash investment, and at one point they are going to have to deliver otherwise they are going to fold.”

“If you look at the total amount of money needed to support platforms you realise that there’s not enough money out there to support everything,” he said.

Morel also articulated his views on millennials, and how the outlook on life among this generation might impact brands in time to come.

“I’m from the baby boomer generation. The dream was to have a green grassed lawn after you’ve finished working. But I’ve always said that the grass is brown everywhere, you make it green.”

“The bar has been raised to a level where, when I talk to young people, I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that not only do they dream of that green lawn, but they believe that the lawn will have flowers and a rainbow unicorn floating over it.”

“They have a level of expectation so high because of what has been offered to them, and the reality is not going to meet these expectations.”

“In my generation, we had a very low level of expectation, and we were lucky. The reality was considerably better than we imagined, so we were happy. The delta between reality and expectation was in our favour.”

“The world and the economy delivered more than we expected. Now the generation coming is expecting so much from our world that there’s going to be some disenchantment.”

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