Media KPIs That Matter | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

Media KPIs That Matter

May 18, 2021

By Bill Duggan


The ANA Media Leadership Growth Council was recently established to be a direct counterpart to the CMO Growth Council, with an exclusive focus on media. The group is currently working to establish its growth agenda, and measurement will certainly be an important part of that.

Media KPIs have been identified by the ANA Media Leadership Growth Council as one of its areas of initial interest due to the direct connection between KPIs and business results. The group was interested in learning more about:

  • The most used KPIs for media
  • The most important KPIs for media
  • The new/emerging KPIs for media

Thirty-nine KPIs were identified in all. A survey of 93 respondents was fielded in the first quarter of 2021. Qualitative interviews supplemented the quantitative work.


The Most-Used KPIs for Media

The most-used KPIs for media are primarily efficiency and exposure counting.

TypeKPICurrently Using (Percentage)
Efficiency CPM (cost per thousand) 83 percent
Efficiency CPC (cost per click or interaction) 77 percent
Exposure Counting Unique Reach 77 percent
Outcome ROI/ROAS Based on Spending or Lift 76 percent
Audience Measurement Site Visits 72 percent
Exposure Counting Viewable Impressions 71 percent


The Most Important KPIs for Media

The most important KPIs for media are based on outcome and measurement quality.

KPI TypeKPITop Box (5-point scale)
Outcome ROI/ROAS Based on Spending or Lift 71 percent
Outcome Exposed ROAS 63 percent
Measurement Quality Brand Safety Metrics 59 percent
Outcome Customer Lifetime Value 58 percent
Outcome Conversion 57 percent
Outcome Direct online sales conversions from site visit 57 percent


The Top New and Emerging KPIs

The top new and emerging KPIs are all focused on either outcome or measurement quality.

Measurement Quality Data Source Quality
Outcome ROI/ROAS Based on Spending or Lift
Outcome Customer Lifetime Value
Outcome Conversion
Measurement Quality Targeting Information Quality


Perspective On Results

Among the 39 KPIs in the survey, only five ranked among the top dozen for both most important and most used.

Outcome ROI/ROAS Based on Spending or Lift
Outcome Conversion
Exposure Counting Unique Reach
Audience Measurement Site Visits
Exposure Counting Viewable Impressions


Outcome and measurement quality KPIs rise to the top in the ranking of most important KPIs but not in most used. There’s an opportunity for the industry to increase the use of these quality KPIs, as media investments increasingly are being held accountable for driving results.

Here are observations on some of the key metrics:

  • ROI/ROAS is an outcome metric directly tied to business growth. It’s a short-term, immediate metric: “For every dollar spent, this is the expected return.” It guides the marketer on whether advertising investment pays out. Measurement of ROI/ROAS can be done via marketing mix modeling, optimizing against multichannel media. This metric is ranked first in importance and fourth in use. It is also identified as a top new/emerging KPI for media.
  • Brand safety was ranked as the third most important media KPI, yet is 16th among KPIs currently used. There is no universal metric to track brand safety; rather, individual brands have their own brand suitability guidelines. Brand safety is a key focus of the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), which has developed various authorized metrics to help brands assess individual and industry progress in reducing harmful content in ad-supported digital media.
  • Conversion is an outcome-based KPI and ranks among the most used (8) and most important (5). It is also high on the list of new/emerging KPIs for media, possibly as a result of the growth of the DTC category, the evolution of performance marketing, and a surge in e-commerce during the pandemic.
  • Unique reach ranks among both the most used (3) and most important (7) KPIs for media. Unique reach is not a new metric but is now more challenging in this era of digital media. Unique reach is available for individual channels, but given the restrictions of walled gardens (that do not allow measurement across channels), true cross-platform unique reach is currently impossible to measure precisely. Unique reach is a key objective of cross-platform measurement, to enable planning optimization and frequency management to reduce waste, and to deliver a better consumer experience.
  • Data source quality and targeting information quality are two closely related metrics. Data source quality ranked #8 in importance and targeting information quality ranked #12, yet both ranked in the bottom half of KPIs currently used for media. Both are also identified as top new/emerging KPIs for media.


Key conclusions are:

  1. Common, universal, and established metrics are still required to provide basic measurement for the scale of audiences reached, and the relative costs to do so, for brand campaigns. These same metrics continue to act as common currency and a measure of value for the buying and selling of media space and time.
  2. What is changing is the use of KPIs that work deeper down the purchase funnel in measuring audience actions, and the value of those outcomes. Outcome KPIs are becoming more mission-critical and are replacing output KPIs in importance in terms of measuring business results and value delivered to brands through media.
  3. The growth in DTC category advertising (accelerated by the pandemic), the growing discipline of performance marketing, and the continuing demands by the C-suite to drive measurable business results through media may be making outcome-based media KPIs more pervasive and mission-critical.
  4. The most important KPIs are generally not the most used KPIs. The most important KPIs for media are mostly based on outcome and measurement quality. The most used KPIs for media are primarily efficiency KPIs and media exposure KPIs. There is an opportunity for the industry to increase the use of outcome and measurement quality KPIs.
  5. The KPI of unique reach had strong interest in our qualitative discussions. Unique reach is not a new metric but is now more challenging to measure in this era of digital and multi-platform media, especially given the restrictions of walled gardens. Unique reach is an objective of the ANA’s current work on cross-media measurement.
  6. Brand safety metrics will only grow in importance to marketers, as content creation and publishing continues to be democratized, whether it’s user-generated content or the long tail of the web. They will become essential for an industry that has shifted to buying audiences without a way to guarantee where brand ads appear online. Marketers should consider the GARM authorized metrics.
  7. Data used to target audiences in advertising is a topical issue: both Apple and Google, driven by privacy concerns, have announced that they will be ending their respective data-sharing practices that have powered the open web and advertising for years. This “third-party cookie deprecation” will increase the importance of first-party data. Brands should take action now to enhance their first-party data capabilities. This could also create opportunities for in-house agency teams, as embedded staff will likely be best suited to work with the organization’s first-party data.
  8. Marketers often use multiple KPIs, sometimes called “matched pairs,” to optimize campaigns and evaluate their effectiveness.

The full report is available here.

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