WPP’s Millward Brown Digital conducted a study of 400 senior marketing executives in the spring of 2015 to take a deeper look at digital ad spending. While marketers are spending an ever-increasing amount on digital ads, concerns exist about whether the ads they’re spending on are even working.

In fact, the study found that a full 70% of marketers said that their inability to properly measure the results from these types of ads kept them from spending more on these channels. The problem is that nailing down the return on investment (ROI) on digital, mobile and social media ads is difficult. Without access to this data—or even the ability to properly measure it—it simply did not make sense to increase that part of the marketing budget for these executives.

Unsurprisingly, social media measurement was a hot button topic for many of the respondents, with 74% saying they needed a better way to measure ROI from this channel before they increased their ad spending. This is up from 50% in the 2014 study.

When asked about digital and mobile spending, executives said they’d increase by 78% and 79%, respectively, if they could better measure the tangible results.

Of course, ROI measurement has always been a tricky prospect, even before the Internet Age. Marketers have always had trouble linking sales to specific television ads, but Internet marketing brought with it the ability to view more real-time data than before—even if the data is primarily proxy metrics that include:

  • Ad impressions
  • Clicks
  • Store visits

With more marketers seeking to streamline their ad spending in the coming years, measuring ROI for each digital ad campaign is more important than ever. While new technologies provide Big Data to businesses, not all marketers are confident in their ability to properly analyze it. When asked about their comfort level working with Big Data, respondents reported:

  • 2015 confident working with it – 14%
  • 2014 confident working with it – 39%

This clearly shows that while 40% of respondents believe Big Data is the biggest opportunity for marketers this year, businesses are growing less confident in their ability to capitalize on that opportunity.

Whether marketing executives are prepared to measure digital media ROI or not, digital ad spending is expected to increase to $149 billion this year and will likely become the top marketing channel by 2018. This makes it critical for businesses to develop new ways to harness the power of Big Data in order to more accurately measure the results of their digital ad campaigns.


Tadena, Nathalie. Marketers Say They Would Spend Even More on Digital Ads If Measurement Improved. The Wall Street Journal Blog. July 6, 2015.