Digital Brand Activity Measurement Revisited: Abstract from Google/WPP Research Proposal

This is the abstract from our Google / WPP research proposal regarding measuring brand activity online. I blogged a draft of this earlier, but this is maybe a clearer picture of what we were looking at doing.


Universal Digital Currency: Towards a deeper elaboration and more effective measurement of brand engagement online.

(Joe Fry / Professor Chris Hackley)


It shouldn’t be difficult to understand a decent piece of digital brand activity. But brand engagement online remains somewhat of an enigma. Measurement runs up against numerous problems, including the context specificity of online experience, the individuality of brand engagement, audience characteristics, individual difference, the dynamics of brand communities in online interaction, and mutual contagion between online and offline media – to list but a few.

In particular, the use of quantitative measures (unique visits, etc) – whilst very powerful – can be premature when quality of brand engagement, key to brand equity, is imperfectly understood. The proposed research will explore digital brand effectiveness in order to move toward a clearer, more coherent and more inclusive conceptualization for measurement.

Heightened competition and increased complexity in the digital environment calls for increased openness, and the current economic climate means that digital agencies must collaborate to exist: ‘co-opetition’ is growing and a mutuality of experience between advertisers, agencies, suppliers, competitors and consumers is coming to the fore. However, in this ‘co-opetitive’ context, it is a question of which brands can harness the powerful technologies at their disposal in order to remove inefficiencies, share knowledge, drive engagement (rather than just analyze it) and prove the value of investment in digital through measurable ROI and engaging environments.

The key element of this research is to ground a deeper and more detailed understanding of digital brand engagement and effectiveness in a better understanding of the subjective experiences of consumers and agencies/advertisers online – ultimately pushing towards a universal, useable currency for the measurement of digital brand activity.


These goals are intended to guide the research but they will not delimit its scope- the research will approach the notion of digital brand engagement without presuppositions. Consumer data, industry insight and Google/WPP datasets will no doubt generate novel angles on this concept.

To develop knowledge surrounding consumer, advertiser and agency experiences of digital brand engagement, in order to create a more effective framework for the measurement and comparison of online brand experiences.

To elaborate upon understanding of the subjective experiences of consumers online, and how this translates into brand consciousness, engagement and intention to purchase, in the context of the ‘digital/traditional’ customer journey.

To unpack the applicability, and define the terms, of a ‘single digital currency’ by establishing effectiveness measures underpinned by better and evidence-based assumptions about audience experiences and behaviour online.

Expected Outcomes

It is predicted that whilst a single digital currency is both desirable and plausible, particularly in the current economic climate, that the likelihood of adoption of a single effectiveness measurement tool is unlikely. However, it is also assumed that the development of a conceptual framework and more effective measures of brand engagement online will push closer to this goal, whilst also creating a space for the exploration and deeper understanding of consumer response, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to digital brand activity.

Therefore it is assumed that a framework can be developed, answering:

Are people engaging with the brand online? (eg the microsite/widget you have built)
Does the digital brand experience deliver the intended message?
Is the experience useful to the user? (Information, entertainment, insight etc)
Does the digital brand experience work effectively with the customer journey across traditional /digital media?
What are the terms by which this ‘single digital currency’ can be defined?

Ultimately, the methodology proposed and types of measurement discussed are simple: they are designed to work out what digital brand effectiveness is, how to measure it, and how to then use that framework (eg ‘dwell time’ against ‘intended brand message take out’) to develop the effectiveness of brand engagement online. The construction of useful measurement techniques will hopefully lead to some way of proving the value of ‘well-targeted search journeys, clever seeding and above the line pointers towards very effective microsites’ over ‘average TV ads’ (Greg Doone, MD, Collective London).


We find out whether we get the go-ahead in February. Any thoughts on this are welcomed.


‘I know that half of my advertising money is wasted … I just don’t know which half’

Just been reading about measuring effectiveness online, which led me to this guys blog post

His opening line pretty much sums up his argument: “This is the idea that if agencies could agree on a single way of measuring “effectivness”, irrespective of whether the ad is online or offline, the industry would get back to normal.”

He goes on to say how online advertising is measurable and advertisers are beginning to favour this accountability over the more volatile nature of offline. I do agree, to an extent…but online advertising isn’t as easy to measure as one would like to think.

This article basically makes the same point, other than it focuses exclusively on online – only when a single currency is developed intra-disciplinarily can a cross-discipline or “standard set of methods” be developed.

And furthermore, is this even desirable? To the client, yes, but to creativity…I’m not so sure. When Paul talks about the industry ‘returning to normal’ as a result of standardized effectiveness measurement, what is this norm? Back in the ‘good old days’ of creativity in ad agencies (an idealized view I’m sure, and perhaps not desirable today – but still, something he seems to allude to), there was a very different call for accountability.

The key for me is in balancing measurement, stats, quants and standardization with a creative, engaging and dynamic context for brands to ‘live’ in a cross-platform space: online, offline, virally and out of the box…