The Future of Ad Measurement with Inspire Brands’ Ryan McManus

Championing full-funnel, cross-platform, digital advertising intelligence strategies

As the source of advertising dollars for media partners and agencies, brands sit at the heart of the advertising ecosystem. With a large roster of America's favorite brands – Arby's Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic, and Dunkin' - Inspire Brands takes a unique approach to media that taps into distinct brand identities, while benefiting the entire portfolio.

In this Q&A, Inspire’s Director of Media Analytics, Ryan McManus, shares his perspective on the current state of ad measurement, where it’s headed as new channels and platforms arise, and how Inspire Brands keeps up with their wide range of customers.

→ Watch now: The Future of Ad Effectiveness in a Post-Cookie World

Q: If you were today to give the ad measurement industry at-large a grade between A and F, what would it be?

In terms of audience measurement, I give it a C. There's so much complexity in how we target customers and how media is consumed. Our ability to measure reach hasn’t kept up. But like many other aspects of advertising, an evolution is underway. We're making progress, but there's clearly a lot of room to grow.

More specifically, ad effectiveness measurement is a huge focus for Inspire. It’s about striking the right balance between brand building and performance marketing. There are two components of brand lift. One is our ability to measure it, and I give that an A. Translating that brand lift into actual sales volume is still an evolution. Our partnership with DISQO has been a major part of raising the bar on getting to a better place with measurement.

Q: Dunkin’ made a touchdown with Ben Affleck at the Super Bowl and worked with Ice Spice at the VMAs.  What’s the decision-making process for tapping the reach and prestige of these tentpole broadcast events? And, how do you measure a cross-platform media strategy around them, especially when siloed social platforms are so central to the buzz?  

We’re always thinking about demand generation and whether our ads are driving sales, but brand building is just as much of a priority. Tentpole events like the SuperBowl fall firmly into that brand building space because the buzz is unmatched. 

When it comes to measurement, we are focused on audiences and brand lift. There are two completely different audiences for the Super Bowl and the VMAs, so we start with the audience perspective and look for brand lift. 

Connecting the dots between different platforms is also hugely important. It’s so easy to get stuck in the details that you forget about what you're doing. If we're doing our job in ad measurement, we're providing measurement, but also an understanding. We track conversion on social, of course, but we're really looking for an understanding of whether we moved the audience and how each channel contributed to that movement. 

DISQO is a huge part of that process. We can start with our audience, look across the different mediums and, importantly, understand the synergy of those mediums.

Q: What value do you see in a single-source, consented approach when examining ad impact across platforms?

The importance of understanding multi-channel ad impact cannot be understated. The modern customer doesn’t consume media or make a decision about a brand from one channel; it’s a combination of multiple channels. We’ll always need to understand whether some worked, but I believe marketing organizations really take off when they understand why they’re impacting people. At Inspire, we strive to understand different populations and how channels can be combined to impact those specific populations. If we can deliver this richness of understanding, it trickles down everywhere. 

Q: A recent story about Inspire’s incredible growth cited that your loyalty base has hit nearly 50 million members. Can you tell us about how you pull your loyalty program into your measurement strategy?

Absolutely, it's a cornerstone of our strategy. Those 50 million members span all six of our brands, so it's one of the places where Inspire sees benefits through scale. The questions are… how do we target, and do we drive frequency? When we know somebody's buying a spicy sandwich from Arby's, we also know they may enjoy a spicy sandwich egg sandwich from Dunkin’. So, we really view loyalty as having a multifaceted impact. 

At Inspire, we put first-party data from our loyalty program into clean rooms, and then use that to target. We know who we're hitting from a marketing standpoint; we know what the objective is; and we can read that on the back end and figure out if it’s having an impact. 

Q: How difficult is it to advocate for increased advertising investments in the current market? How does measurement help make those arguments?

Measurement is thankfully at the base of all of our decisions at Inspire Brands. The real challenge is figuring out how to present all of the analytics that we have. When we go to the C-suite and talk about what we're doing next, they’re going to ask us to prove it works. 

So, how do we build a case to show the value of brand marketing? Our media mix is going to overestimate some channels and underestimate others, so there's a lot of complexity in figuring out how to communicate why that is. People look at the media mix and expect a model that's going to give a reliable number. In reality, there are different KPIs, some that are short-term and others that are long-term. It's not just about measuring the end marketing touch; it's about understanding what it took to get a customer through the full funnel. We strive to give a holistic picture in a clear way and put value on each step in the planning and buying process. 

Q: Why did you choose DISQO as a measurement partner? 

Inspire has worked with DISQO for a number of years. We've really ramped up our engagement over the past twelve months because DISQO offers us the ability to measure the full funnel, including the intent impact of our advertising. If we can’t get a full funnel view, we can’t understand how to drive our marketing strategy. DISQO’s panel-based approach and ability to help us understand ad effectiveness within walled gardens was a huge decision factor for us.

But wait… there’s more!

Check out DISQO’s recent webinar with Ryan and other measurement leaders, including David Shiffman of iHeartMedia and Courtney Thompson of Mindshare. Watch on demand for  an even deeper dive into the ad measurement industry’s hottest topics.

→ Watch now: The Future of Ad Effectiveness in a Post-Cookie World

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