‘No-one will believe data for the next five years’: Mark Ritson urges marketers to focus on results

Marketers are going to have to change their mindset around metrics from “output” to “input” measures and nobody will “trust anyone’s numbers” for the next five years, according to Professor Mark Ritson.

Mark Ritson speaking at Mumbrella360 2016

Ritson: “In 10 years the idea of attending a digital marketing conference will sounds as fashionable as the world wide web”

Ritson, who caused a storm in the industry with his presentation calling for an end to people overusing digital channels, which he claims are under-delivering, challenged the social media sector in particular to come up with a robust rebuttal to his claims.

In a presentation at Mumbrella360, Ritson pointed to the low engagement many huge brands get on their social media posts, quipping: “There are more people in the social media teams in these companies than there are responding to their messages.”

Talking about ‘The Dreary ‘D’ Word’ Ritson accused anyone who has digital in their job title as being “part of a cult, a mad cult”, adding: “Digital media and digital marketing doesn’t mean anything, it’s a silo. And in 10 years the idea of attending a digital marketing conference will sounds as fashionable as the world wide web.”

He also urged marketers to keep more of an open mind to all types of media, pointing to a News Corp sales boss in the audience and urging seminar guests to “treat him like total shit, but treat all the other media vendors in the same way and give them a chance to see what they can do”.

Asked what metrics marketers would need to move to in the future if reach was no longer the answer, Ritson told Mumbrella: “I don’t think anyone is going to believe anyone’s data for the next five years. Misrepresentation over expansion of fact and contradictory systems means most smart marketers won’t be able to work out how many eyeballs they’re going to get.

“I think we will see over the next five years a migration to what I call output measures rather than input measures. So rather than saying ‘I’ve reached X% of my target segment, I want to get X number of consumers to consider my brand, irrespective of what the media mix was, did I achieve that at the end of the year?'”

But, he added, that would “put the pressure back on clients to do their work properly” and “come up with proper objectives” to brief to their agencies.

“The only way we can assess the quality of anything in marketing is whether it achieves the objectives,” he said.

“Without an objective we can’t execute properly or measure the results. So I think what we’ll see is a bigger focus on output stuff. Clients saying these are my objectives and 12 months later did I reach them or not? I think that’s the only way we get out of this little hole we’re beginning to enter and I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

In his presentation, an updated version of the talk he delivered at an AANA event two weeks earlier, Ritson again accused people of failing to get out of their digital silos and embrace the wider reach of more traditional communications channels.

“I think the degree of variance between what’s being sold and what’s being reached is extraordinary,” he said. “The data I’m using isn’t proprietary, it’s publicly available, and I’m putting up data that shows more than 90% of search links being clicked on are by a robot and the average Australian follows on brand.

“I think that’s a pretty simple but demonstrative set of numbers to debate – and I’m open to the debate, but I’m missing it at the moment.”

While the presentation has spawned several rebuttal pieces, including one from IPG Mediabrands CEO Danny Bass, Ritson said he wanted to see proper debate around the issues he raised.

“I’m missing any kind of robust push-back so far that, frankly, I would look forward to,” he added. “When I started talking about the limitations of social media I assumed people would set me right in the bits that were fluffy and were wrong, and that’s the nature of good disciplinary debate, but we haven’t seen that. What we’re seeing is people pushing back on me and my approach.”


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