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Enjoying the Fruits of Standardization

27 Sep 2023

Measurement standards for retail media will help brands make better ‘apples to apples’ comparisons across ad platforms

By Kelly Kachnowski, The Mars Agency

This month, the IAB Retail Media Measurement Working Group, in collaboration with the Media Rating Council, released the first draft of their Retail Media Measurement Guidelines. This comprehensive document aims to bring uniformity and credibility to the practice of retail media measurement. The organizations are taking public feedback on the document through Oct. 13 and will then publish updated guidelines in early January 2024.

The Mars Agency’s Kelly Kachnowski, who was among 12 main contributors to this landmark report, offers her perspective on the need for measurement guidelines and their potential impact on the future of retail media.

Until now, it’s been quite a challenge for marketers to effectively measure retail media because they’ve been required to evaluate a lot of disparate information from numerous sources.Standards like the ones recommended in these Retail Media Measurement Guidelines will enable marketers to compare performance more clearly across media so they can make better, more informed strategic decisions about their investments.

We think about the benefits in a couple of ways. First, we want to better compare the performance of retail media and national media. Brands only have a limited amount of money to spend across budgets and must decide where best to invest. These guidelines will help us compare the two in a more “apples to apples” way by bringing IAB’s existing standards for national media to the retail media space.

Secondly, retail media networks that meet the standards will help us better evaluate across retailers. Historically, that’s where our challenges have been because the different reporting styles, strategies and capabilities of each retail media network have made it extremely hard to compare them. (We’ve built our own proprietary Marilyn technology to help clients do that.)

These standards won’t deliver a silver bullet. But by standardizing definitions and encouraging networks to provide greater transparency into their methodologies, we’ll again facilitate “apples to apples” comparisons that can give advertisers a lot more actionable intelligence to inform holistic budgeting decisions.

They will also help educate the industry. The depth of analytics teams across brand organizations varies widely, and not everyone knows the level of information and reporting that might be available from their network partners. Standards will help businesses understand what they might be able to request. On the flip side, they will help level-set expectations for advertisers who might be asking for the moon because they don’t understand, say, the lift involved in a network providing custom reporting across numerous campaigns.

A key point to remember is that the purpose of these standards isn’t to establish universal rules that everyone must follow — commerce marketing is too complex to make that feasible. But we have to align on definitions. We have to establish recommendations for transparency. We have to make sure everyone clearly understands the information they’re getting in the reports they receive. But the goal isn’t necessarily to dictate the specific details of that information.

At the end of the day, the collective goal here is better, more transparent understanding. Everybody wants their campaigns to be successful. Everybody wants a positive experience for shoppers. Setting these standards will help us level-set so we can start to grow through deeper insights and deeper information.

At the Mars Agency, we’ll be finding ways to incorporate these standards into our Retail Media Report Card, a quarterly assessment  of leading networks across 65 key criteria that brands need to optimally plan, execute and measure effective programs.

We’ve been publishing this report since last fall to encourage the development of industry standards for effective evaluation. That’s why we’ve participated so enthusiastically in the efforts of the IAB and MRC: They’re validating the work we’ve been doing and allowing us to have even better conversations about measurement transparency with our brands and retail partners.

As the call for feedback implies, this needs to be an industry-wide endeavor. So we’re asking everyoneto do two things. First, communicate these guidelines throughout your organization — across the silos that might exist between your brand and retail media teams, or your analytics and retail media teams. This is a great opportunity to bring everyone together to reach a mutual understanding about what needs to be done.

Secondly, start having this conversation with your retail partners and push for standardization, for transparency, for the measurement reporting that you need. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many retailers fully support this cause.

We all have to make sure we’re holding each other accountable. It only works if we do this together. If we do, it will create the change that we need.

About the Author
Kelly Kachnowski is VP of Growth and Engagement for Data and Analytics Technology at The Mars Agency. For the last several years, she has helped build and commercialize Marilyn, the industry’s leading marketing technology platform. In her 13 years at Mars, Kelly has worked across media, innovation, developing award-winning engagement strategies for a diverse roster of clients.

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