Marketers View Media KPIs Through “Most Used” And “Most Important” Lens

New ANA Study Shows “Most Used” KPIs Are Not “Most Important”

NEW YORK (May 18, 2021) — Marketers believe the “most important” KPIs for their media investments are generally not the same as the ones that are “most used,” according to a new ANA study.

“Media KPIs That Matter” reveals that the most used KPIs focus primarily on efficiency and exposure while the most important KPIs are based on outcome and measurement quality. For example, while CPM is cited as the number one most used KPI, it’s 22nd in terms of most important.  (See appendix in full report).

“In today’s complex, multi-faceted media marketplace, KPIs have become critical to measuring success,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “Marketers now demand  specific and accurate indicators measuring the  efficiency of their media buys. This report demonstrates  they  are keeping a keen eye on every aspect of their investments.”


  • CPM (cost per thousand)
  • CPC (cost per click or interaction)
  • Unique Reach
  • ROI/ROAS (Outcome versus Marketing Investment) Based on Spending or Lift
  • Site Visits


  • ROI/ROAS (Outcome versus Marketing Investment) Based on Spending or Lift
  • Exposed ROAS (Spending and Lift, only using valid measured exposures as a base)
  • Brand Safety Metrics
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Conversion.

The top new/emerging KPIs cited in the survey are all focused on either measurement quality or outcome, reflecting the shift in the media world from buying media to buying audiences. They are:

  • Data Source Quality
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Conversion
  • Targeting Information Quality.

In all, 39 KPIs were identified in the survey and were grouped into six categories. Among the 39, only five rank among the top dozen for both most important and most used. They are: ROI/ROAS (Outcome versus Marketing Investment) Based on Spending or Lift; Conversion; Unique Reach; Site Visits, and Viewable Impressions (i.e., provides the opportunity to see the ad).

“Today’s media leaders find themselves with an incredible opportunity to step up and become true business partners who are key drivers of growth versus just cost containment managers of large spends,” said Charlie Chappell, VP of media at The Hershey Company. “Yet our industry has struggled to provide clear guidance on how to link the media metrics to the outcomes that matter most to our C-suite. This report is an important step to bridge that gap and propel media to the leadership position it should rightly hold within all our organizations.”


  • 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.
  • KPIs now dig 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.
  • The growth in DTC category advertising (accelerated by the pandemic), the growing discipline of performance marketing, and C-suite demands to drive measurable business results may be making outcome-based media KPIs more pervasive and mission-critical.
  • 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.
  • The “unique reach” KPI was of particular interest to respondents in qualitative discussions. Unique reach is not new but is more difficult to measure in the era of digital and multi-platform 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 an objective of the ANA’s current work on cross-media measurement.
  • 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, and brands should act now to enhance their first-party data capabilities.


The survey was fielded in January and February 2021 to members of the ANA Media Leadership

Committee and Digital & Social Media Committee (which has four geographic chapters) and generated 93 respondents.  This quantitative work was followed up with qualitative discussions with select survey respondents as well as the heads of two key sister industry trade associations, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and Media Rating Council (MRC).

The full report is available at



The mission of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) is to drive growth for marketing professionals, brands and businesses, the industry, and humanity. The ANA serves the marketing needs of 20,000 brands by leveraging the 12-point ANA Growth Agenda, which has been endorsed by the Global CMO Growth Council. The ANA’s membership consists of U.S. and international companies, including client-side marketers, nonprofits, fundraisers, and marketing solutions providers (data science and technology companies, ad agencies, publishers, media companies, suppliers, and vendors). The ANA creates Marketing Growth Champions by serving, educating, and advocating for more than 50,000 industry members that collectively invest more than $400 billion in marketing and advertising annually.


John Wolfe
Director of Communications
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