4 Ways to Measure Ad Impact Without Digital Tracking

Balint Gergely

May 15, 2024

We live in an era dominated by big data

Getting a good advertising budget often depends on your ability to show supervisors the potential benefits of an investment. To get buy-in, you not only have to understand the data well but also predict how today's strategies will lead to future success.

Often, companies are reluctant to invest in advertising campaigns without clear, measurable outcomes. This heavy reliance on tangible data can be constrictive. While historical data is invaluable, relying solely on it can limit our perspective.

As Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, Rory Sutherland highlights: 

"It's important to remember that big data all comes from the same place – the past." 

Recognizing the limitations of historical data encourages us to explore complementary methods. Methods that can provide additional insights into advertising impact.

The Problem with Digital Tracking as a Measure of Ad Performance

In an ideal world, every customer interaction would be perfectly trackable. Imagine customers smoothly walking down your marketing funnel, progressing from awareness to conversion without interruptions.

It’s a beautiful fantasy, but as we know, the real world is far from ideal. Sure, you can measure impressions, clicks, and conversions, and even calculate Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) with reasonable accuracy. But much of your ad's impact gets lost in indirect influences: 

If someone sees your product on TV, and mentions it to a friend, who then searches online for a similar product, only to find and purchase from your competitor, what was the real impact of your TV ad?

This example highlights where typical performance marketing metrics show their limitations. In reality, customers rarely follow your predetermined path. KPIs like cost-per-click fail to capture the nuanced effects of marketing. 

So what are some alternative ways that help us better understand the full impact of our advertising?

#1 Analyze Attention to Measure Your Visual Advertising Impact

Attention Heatmaps are used for the visual representations of attention

While it's challenging to track every customer interaction completely, you can still ensure that your ads make a strong impact. This is where visual analysis can come in handy.

Visual analysis allows you to confirm that your ad communicates its key messages effectively. Although the full impact of your campaign may be out of reach, you can at least be confident that viewers are noticing the key elements of your ads.

Attention analysis has been a tool for advertisers for decades. One of the most popular ways of doing it is through eye-tracking studies. These studies directly measure how well visuals attract and hold attention.

Today, eye-tracking is a commonly used technique to evaluate visual engagement. 

Alternatively, platforms like Neurons utilize historical eye-tracking data to deliver similar results. These tools can still offer high accuracy while providing a faster and more scalable method.

Attention analysis techniques enable you to measure the impact of your ads more directly. By understanding attention, you have a better chance of maximizing your ad impact.

#2 Measure Your Subconscious Ad Impact

Abstract visualization of Fast Response Tests

If you want to understand the impact of your ads on your customers, consider asking them directly. Surveys are essential for measuring how ads influence audiences consciously. However, they can be limited by respondents’ ability to accurately report their feelings. Here are 2 ways to bypass this:

1. Fast Response Tests

Fast Response Tests are designed to overcome survey limitations by capturing instinctive reactions to ads. They are a form of Implicit Association Tests. These responses reflect subconscious perceptions and biases and offer a more direct insight into the ad's impact.

2. Post-Exposure Surveys

While emotional reactions can be difficult to measure, asking about ad and brand recall is straightforward. These surveys assess how memorable an ad is and how effectively it stands out amid media clutter.

Surveys, when done right, can be a valuable addition to your methods for understanding your ad impact.

#3 Use Brain Scanning to Directly Measure Your Ad’s Impact on Customers

Combined eye-tracking and EEG offer novel insights for market research.

Brain scanning (EEG) can complement surveys by tracking brain activity. This method reveals how ads emotionally engage or stress viewers. EEG provides deeper insights into the subconscious effects of ads, that are impossible to capture with surveys alone.

By combining brain scanning with the aforementioned methods, you can gain a comprehensive view of both the conscious and subconscious effects of your ads. This may lead to better-targeted and more effective advertising strategies.

There are ways to track ad impact beyond directly measuring it:

#4 Monitor Indirect Advertising Impact to Understand Marketing Effectiveness

Although direct performance metrics aren’t always available, there are still ways to gauge your ad impact indirectly. 

Monitoring sales, store walk-ins, website visits, and social media mentions can also assist you in grasping your impact. These metrics don't isolate the effects of a single campaign. They provide a broader view of how all your marketing efforts are performing.

Tracking these customer interactions allows you to spot weaknesses in your strategies early on. While this data can be insightful, it's important to remember that external factors can influence these metrics. A sudden increase or decrease in any of these areas can signal a need for further investigation to understand the underlying causes.

Key Takeaways

Data is invaluable for marketers, yet relying solely on one type of data can obscure the true effects of your advertising efforts. To fully understand the impact of your ads, diversifying your measurement methods can be a good idea. This approach helps mitigate the uncertainty inherent in the real world.

Here's a recap of what we covered:

#1 Use attention analysis tools to measure the visual impact of ads

Eye-tracking studies and AI tools like Neurons ensure your ads communicate your key messages. These tools help you measure how effectively your assets capture and hold attention, and where that attention lands on your visuals.

#2 Ask customers to tell you how they feel about your ads

A mix of surveys and fast response tests help you assess your ad's impact on your customers. This combination provides a comprehensive view of how your advertisements affect viewers on a conscious and subconscious level.

#3 Measure ad impact directly in the brain

While this one is probably not available for everyone, the brands that have the means should consider measuring brain activity levels in response to visual stimuli to understand ad impact more deeply. Tools like EEG brain scanners can provide tremendous insight into customer responses to ads.

#4 Pay attention to indirect KPIs

Indirect metrics like sales, walk-ins, and social media activity may influence your strategy. Look for patterns and anomalies. These can indicate how well your overall advertising strategy is performing. 

These methods help you gain a holistic understanding of your advertising impact. This helps you not only capture the obvious effects but also the subtle influences of your ads.

4 Ways to Measure Ad Impact Without Digital Tracking

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