Transforming Tracking: From Rearview Mirror to Brand Activator

09 Apr 2014|Added Value

Brian Kushnir, Managing Director in our Los Angeles office, recently sat down with three of Added Value’s tracking thought leaders: Glenn Rosenberg, Wai Leng Loh and Mahta Emrani, to discuss changes in marketing and insights, the claim that ‘tracking is dead’ and how Added Value is Transforming Tracking.

He began by asking how the changing nature of media impacts the way we do tracking today:

Changes in Communications and Media
Mahta: The idea that content is king is truer than ever. If you have the right content, and it is relevant in the right place, it can go viral, helping to accelerate the impact of your campaign and promote longevity. It has little to do with how many points you put behind a campaign anymore.

Glenn: We’re working with media agencies exploring influences across a variety of touchpoints and what we are finding suggests there’s more going on here than we can capture in traditional GRP ad spend measurement. It’s not the TV commercial that is dead but the traditional way of reporting recall and measuring influence that needs some reviving.

Folks are catching an ad in a variety of different ways making GRPs a less representative measurement of reach and frequency. What our clients spend on advertising, where they spend it, and the way they measure that spend has all changed and this has significant ROI implications. We’ve created a variety of different models on that show the increasing influence of online video on tracking measurements. We have to develop ways to re-calibrate reach and frequency with digital video in mind so we can better understand what we’re seeing, how it is changing the equation and how it can enhance our media modeling to ultimately make our client’s marketing work harder for them.

Mahta: There’s also a convergence happening, with information and media traveling across screens more fluidly. Fewer people are watching TV the old fashioned way. Content is evolving and Netflix and Amazon are now considered ‘broadcasters.’ Media planners get this and they are changing their plans to incorporate Twitter and social, engaging people to stay on the screen – however big or small it may be – and watch.

Glenn: You bring up a really good point: advertisers are able to target you specifically, they know what you are doing, when you are doing it, and are putting out ads directly for you because they know what you like and what you want. That also brings immediacy… if it’s something you’re interested in, the chances of you paying attention to this micro marketing increases.

Changes for Our Clients
Mahta: Clients are changing their way of thinking as well, some faster than others. Many are locked into an old school kind of view about of what tracking used to be and what it always was. Others know more about the value that newer approaches can actually bring them. These are the most open minded people who are experimenting and innovating together with us. And they are seeing the best results in the end.

Glenn: These are the people who have the same thirst for knowledge we have.

Wai Leng: And view tracking as a strategic tool.

Glenn: A key for many of our clients is not delaying the delivery of insights until the scheduled quarterly deck, but keeping the insight flow continuous, timely and proactive. Making the insights flow in real time, or ideally, faster than that. We need to be actionable even as our world is constantly changing – our job is all about getting insight that’s reliable and not just pointing out little spikes in the data. Insights they can actually do something with it. And if we can help make them the hero in their organizations, so much the better.

Transforming Tracking
Brian: It’s been said that tracking is dead. How would you respond to that?

Glenn: If you think about tracking as just research that takes a look back about how you’ve performed over the past 3, 6, 12 months – then yes, it is not something we’re hearing a lot of need for. But in our view, tracking isn’t about that backward look but rather one that offers a view into the future. One that takes multiple data sources and integrates them, gives the ability to anticipate what’s coming next, and ultimately helps our clients propel their brands forward to growth.

Wai Leng: Should we even still be calling it tracking? It is about continuous understanding of what is current and relevant to the category and to the client at that time. What we do needs to be adaptive, flexible, and nimble, because everything moves very quickly. You can source information from so many places. It’s at our fingertips. We need to be really quick and responsive.

Mahta: We’ve updated our approach towards research, data collection and respondents in general. With more and more actual market data available, how much do we really need to go out and collect information through a survey? There has to be a balance. With all the changes, looking at past trends may not be as useful so the traditional idea of “consistency in method above all” may not be as crucial. We’re increasingly moving to the mode of: what is the best way to answer this question, and letting that drive the approach.

Glenn: We’re doing a lot of R&D and experimentation. Shorter tracking interviews perfect for a mobile environment and seeing how that compares with standard long form interviews. Modular surveys.

Mahta: Perhaps going forward we will only need short surveys that you do periodically because main metrics don’t move so quickly. You know you have a number of metrics you need to look at continuously but you only track among a smaller group of “bellwethers” to make it more manageable on a continuous basis. They are your red flags – if you see things moving among this group you will know it could be spreading to the main market so you can go in and do a short survey on a specific question. It goes to the idea of using the tracker as foresight.

Glenn: With all these considerations, the questions are still the same and our job is still about figuring out what is happening, and why. What causes what? What that means for our client moving forward, today and beyond? This will always be our bottom line. Experimentation and evolution is always placed against the need to answer these basic questions and deliver better, more informed insights.

Wai Leng: Making sure we are asking only the most pertinent questions, at the right time, is important. The idea about bellwethers is important, we need to ID them for any study and have them be leading indicators.

Mahta: The value we bring is in the design and interpretation and the strategic insight we provide. Free data is now part of the market which everyone can access. We know the difference between good data and bad data, how to make sense of it, how to integrate all the different sources together and to make it something you can act on. The value we provide is in the integrating and synthesizing of the different sources and coming up with insights that you don’t get just by looking at the different streams.

Glenn: Streams of data are available that clients never realized they had access too. You can’t tell a story about your brand unless you have all those pieces of information meshed to make sense of all of it. We are actively doing that. We are synthesizing data and having our scientists look at ways of proving ROI on a multiple of factors that play into a brand’s momentum. Really getting a sharper perspective to avoid the conjecture, the “would be,” “it might be,” “could suggest” words that get thrown about when you’re not quite sure what happened. The work we have done in social provides narratives that tie all the elements of a story together, and we’re not just passing along volume and sentiment and saying congrats, that’s 1% higher than last week. We are constantly putting the information into a context of where your brand sits today, where it needs to move to tomorrow, and what you the brand manager can do to get it there.

Wai Leng: It isn’t something that works for every single brand – not every brand generates as much social data for example.

Glenn: The big question some of our clients are grappling with is: How much of social really matters? How much is really influencing and is not just something that’s here today and gone tomorrow. There is still so much to learn. Is the noise from a select group of Twitterites making any discernable overall brand impression amongst your target or even a key slice of your target? What is really out there that is making a difference? This is where a foundational piece like a tracking study can be useful as a consistent baseline in measuring and understanding influences from a variety of streams, including Social.

Mahta: We’re working to integrate all the information available from contextual to survey based to help our client’s develop better strategy and tactics in the service of growing their brands.

Wai Leng: We have to be future focused. That’s the important thing.

Glenn: We also bring our brand strategists, cultural insight, and trends experts into our teams for tracking, especially at the start and then when we are building insights and implications. There is a whole host of capabilities we can bring to the table to make tracking more meaningful, relevant, strategic, and actionable.

Wai Leng: Like Cultural Traction, which is another way we are able to anticipate what is coming for our clients brands and categories.

Mahta: Tracking is a strategic tool. You’re there with the consumers, with the brand, constantly. And tying together these different things brings a holistic view. It’s also strategic in the way we ask questions. We’ve given a huge amount of consideration to the way we word questions, and we take a lot of care to make our surveys engaging. Which leads to better results.

Glenn: It’s also shorter and smarter interviews, modularization, mobile, etc. And add to this mix our deep analytical thinking, always-on curiosity and client-first mentality that make these innovations come to life.

Wai Leng: Digital tools like BrandView and TimeView which give our clients a real time, integrated set of insights from headlines to deep dives, when and where they want it.

Glenn: In the end though, you’re not coming to us for a method or set of tools, you’re coming to us for answers, you’re coming to us for direction and you’re coming to us for in the moment, integrated insights that are going to drive your business forward.


Glenn Rosenberg, EVP, leads Added Value’s tracking offer, specializing in seeing patterns across large sets of data and using insights to help clients drive strategy.

Wai Leng Loh, SVP, has experience spanning the breadth of Added Value’s communications insights practice, and specializes in helping clients deliver on the promise of global brand activation.

Mahta Emrani, VP, leads our Social Media practice and brings a scientific and strategic approach inspired by design thinking to solve her clients’ marketing and branding challenges.

Brian Kushnir, EVP, Managing Director of Added Value Los Angeles and head of Added Value’s Communications Business. Contact Brian at 323-436-6616 for more info or to continue the discussion.

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