Technology provides the path to accountability

New technology offers the chance of better analysis of media and creative performance. Not only that, the millions spent on advertising will be more usefully invested. Simon Mathews looks at developments ahead. Simon Mathews is managing direct

Efforts to attain true accountability in media and creative agencies is more perspiration than inspiration.

However much post-campaign analysis, auditing, and predictive modelling is done never really satisfies the ultimate questions – “Did I sell more as a direct consequence of the advertising?” and, “How could I get more out of the budget?”.

All of this effort may be replaced by new systems which allow consumers to interact with advertising, including BT interactive cable tests and Two Way TV in the Central region. There is also growing consumer confidence about transacting business over the phone.

Shortly to arrive are digital licences (both terrestrial and satellite), creating a whole new interactive television culture.

Existing media, such as posters, could also take on a whole new lease of life (or is that income?) should consumers become more conversant with alphanumeric phone numbers (instead of 0800 read SEX).

Even further down the track, should Larry Ellison’s vision of the network computer prevail, we will see a convergence of TV and Web technology, providing advertisers with yet another option to pull consumers in with advertising and to then enrich the message with relevant brand range propositions.

All of this can’t be easily dismissed because it goes to the heart of accountability.

The millions spent on advertising to build brand values and raise awareness can start to pay back more handsomely than a few percentage points on the tracking study. It can bring real customers to the door and real cash into the tills.

The criteria for a successful campaign will emphasise income earned as much as brand value enhanced. None of this is alien to markets such as the US, where over $18bn (11.25bn) is spent on direct communication, compared with 4.5bn in the UK.

That doesn’t mean to say that exactly the same thing will happen here, but there are valuable lessons to be learnt in the additional value accrued from such one to one advertising, especially in the area of database building.

This is of particular relevance to those manufacturers who face either ad bans, or closer regulation, from a number of increasingly interventionist governments around Europe.

This is not the same as the old argument about companies pillaging the above-the-line budget for more direct activity. While that debate was driven by the same urge to squeeze greater efficiency out of communication budgets, it was set against the reactionary influence of a deep recession.

At the time, marketers also lacked the options that technology and emerging media will shortly provide.

The marketing community can now start to use the new systems and technology less as a way of cutting costs and more as a means of achieving greater efficiency in a more accountable way.

These changes should open up numerous opportunities for creatively dextrous and strategically driven agencies.

Far from being redundant, outstanding creative work will become the shop window for the goods inside. The question is, how will advertising agencies and media companies manage to provide not just the shop window but goods on the shelves inside?

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