"...as a responsible employer of more than 290,000 employees and contractors world-wide, there is a time to justify such an ad spend and a time to step back."
This quote was provided by the director of advertising at FedEx, in response to a question about why they would not be advertising on this year's Superbowl - the first time in 12 years they would be absent from the annual ad-fest.
The implication from his statement seems to be that, up until now, the Superbowl ads were "justified" by something other than sound economics. Sure, there was the fabulous reach into an attractive target demo, but the price is high. So maybe the premium was being "justified" by some "softer" benefits like employee morale, channel partner collaboration, or even that most elusive of all... "brand preference". And in these days of extreme bottom-line focus, these non-economic "justifications" just weren't going to cut it. It would send the wrong message to people losing jobs and benefits.
The sad truth here is that each and every one of the "softer" benefits can, in fact, be economically measured to a reasonable degree. There are practical, credible ways to calculate the ROI of employee morale, partner collaboration, and brand preference. But they require some techniques that few marketers have yet investigated, let alone perfected.
I don't have any idea if Superbowl advertising is a sound economic decision for FedEx, and I'm not questioning their judgment. It might have been a superb use of shareholder funds, or it may have been a terrible waste. I just cringe when I hear how such important marketing decisions are still, in this age of measurement enlightenment, being made on the basis of "justifications" that suggest something less than a robust economic framework was applied.
We, the marketing industry, can do better. We can measure each and every one of those softer elements in ways that our finance partners will embrace. Those 290,000 employees and contractors need us to do better. For their sake, let's try to ramp up our measurement game in 2009, shall we?