Will The Guardian’s Innovative Forward Planning Sustain It For Another 200 Years?

By Johanna Silfwerbrand Bendroth, Partner & Product Director, Brand Metrics

It was refreshing that in the same week The Guardian marked the 200th anniversary of its creation, its digital commercial team went public with the publisher’s latest commitment to a forward-thinking, innovative measurement strategy.

As we hurtle towards the obsolescence of third party cookies , The Guardian is proving it has a plan in place to measure the performance of the ad campaigns it hosts by investing in brand metrics capabilities.

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Surveys running on its pages have measured brand uplift off the back of dozens of campaigns for major businesses, by seeking to understand how the work has driven brand awareness, consideration, preference and purchase intent.

With the abolition of cookies, together with Apple’s IDFA changes, comes an urgent need for publishers to prove the effectiveness of digital ad campaigns and give advertisers the reassurance they have to see that their campaign is having a positive impact on brand uplift.

The irony is that brand metrics testing has existed as a way of measuring ad campaigns for decades, but is only now coming back into fashion as the industry goes full circle away from the tech that threatens to be its undoing. As the public grew wise to the way brands were able to stalk them around the internet, the industry finally accepted they had little choice but to retire such a capability, and the pressure has been on ever since to provide an alternative.

But while the various merits of different identifiers are debated, more and more publishers are turning to the reliable, accurate, honest – and totally private – method of brand metrics measurement.

Brand Metrics has been working with the Guardian for some time, and we have now enabled them to run metrics on every single campaign over £10,000, as standard. This provides an unspoken guarantee to agencies and marketers that they’re going to receive ad lift measurement data on every piece of work that runs on the site.

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By measuring campaigns that use a publisher’s own first party data it’s possible to compare brand uplift against a sector average, and can also tell publishers which campaigns worked particularly well based around specific genres of content on their site.

All of this invaluable insight can be fed back to the marketing teams whose campaigns have been analysed to help shape and optimise future campaign work, setting better expectations and understanding of how their media is used, while powering the publisher’s future offering by offering up transparent data and analytics that prove the effectiveness of their site.

In a market where audience segmentation analytics can be prohibitively expensive, measuring brand uplift measurement can be done at scale, with a reciprocal benefit to both parties.

The benefits of replacing cookie-based targeting with brand metrics-style measurement does not stop there: where cookies can tell you where people have been on the internet, they give zero insight into the mindset and intent of that individual. Have they completed the purchase of something they were browsing offline? Have they seen a digital ad and been inspired to buy a product, or has the ad had no effect on their shopping intentions whatsoever.

By asking direct questions relating to awareness, considering, preference and action intent – in the form of a survey that requires active engagement – an accurate picture can be gleaned of campaign performance and audience response.

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We can lament the end of cookies all we want but they are going, and an alternative needs to be found. Publishers who are already getting their house in order – like The Guardian – will be the real winners come next year by being able to offer a back catalogue of proof points that show the true impact of their brand offering.

And as publishers fight for every penny in the quest for survival, this will be a welcome asset to have on their side. The Guardian once again proving age does not need to be a barrier to change.