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Data, Metrics and Other Confusions

Evolving past clicks, impressions & site visits to get marketing data that truly drives business insights.

Data is critical. Without it, marketers are operating in the dark. It’s no secret, in fact, we’ve known this ever since measurable marketing became “a thing”. But do we know our data well enough? Let’s find out (you might be in for a surprise …).

We’re all chasing our KPIs, trying to maximize ROI, homing in on the most critical metrics and monitoring them closely, optimizing where needed. This all sounds great in theory, and if done correctly will yield good results – key part being: if done correctly. The digital world gives us almost endless ways for measuring the effectiveness of our marketing investments, but it’s on us, marketers, to make the right decisions on how we are going to look at our media plans and decide if they are successful or not.

Let’s go back in time, when everything was simpler. You would buy impressions and hope it was more than what your competition bought. Then you’d measure how many impressions your placements bring in a week, month or quarter, look at increases or decreases and based on that optimize your investment. After all, the more impressions the better, right? Well… no, not even then. What’s the point of delivering millions of impressions to an audience that’s not even remotely interested in your product? But most importantly, do you really know what an impression is? Let’s look at Google’s definition:

The number of times that a user’s client (browser or mobile device) sent a ping to our ad server that creative content was requested and has started to download during the specified date range.


Notice how it doesn’t say anything about users actually seeing the creative content? That’s because they don’t have to, at least according to Google (but to be fair, other industry players do the same). An “impression” was always just a pseudo currency, not a way to measure effectiveness. If you’re taking your data seriously, most likely you should be looking at viewable impressions instead; again, let’s see how Google constitutes “Viewable”:

(…) when at least 50% of the ad is visible for at least one second.


That sounds much better, right? Well, it sure does! If users are not seeing creative content, how can it be successful? According to eMarketer (source:, in H2 2022, average viewable impressions constituted 73.6% of all impressions worldwide. It’s old news, but news that really changes how marketers should look at their campaigns’ performance.

Now, let’s sprint forward a few years. Pharma advertising evolved and gave us a lot of custom programs – banner placements through direct buys just didn’t cut it anymore. This presented another challenge measurement-wise. Our old friend, the impression, was no longer relevant. After all, what even is an “impression” (viewable or not) in this context? We’re now looking at unique page views, PDF downloads, alert opens and the like. Measuring simple creative content exposure was more complex than ever. From that perspective, unification is key – it’s only through being able to compare apples to apples that you can optimize your investment based on hard metrics. To do that, you really need to understand your marketing tactics and their nuances. Otherwise, data just becomes white noise: lots of different metrics, but no real meaning.

Although the world of pharma advertising often requires additional lead time to adapt to what other, less challenging verticals promote as the new norm, it doesn’t mean that we’re always far behind. So what new norm should we be looking at? Attention metrics! After we learned how to truly measure exposure to creative content, and how to unify that across different channels, we now have to take a step further and learn how to measure if that exposure is meaningful. Would you prefer your audience to view your creative content 10 times for one second, or one time for 10 seconds? Well … that depends, right? Only if you understand your data well enough can you make this decision, and it is a critical decision.

Let’s look at Google again. With the introduction of Google Analytics 4, the long-awaited iteration of the world’s leading web analytics tool, we now have a chance to examine attention (and engagement) in a new, more precise way. Long gone is the confusing bounce rate. Other metrics are re-defined and give us more insight, allowing us to optimize more effectively. This is the new reality we find ourselves in. And it’s not just about back-end optimizations. To get the most out of our investment, we should focus on partners that offer front-end attention metrics – and we should all use them. Viewability is still important, but understanding if the audience absorbed the message is king.

Today, marketing is more complex than ever. It’s increasingly dependent on data, and understanding that data determines whether marketers and advertisers sink or swim. It’s no longer about clicks, impressions and site visits. It’s critical to understand all channels’ and tactics’ nuances as well as how to marry them with brand KPIs. Only then can we drive positive ROI and help derive meaningful business insights.

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