imageGian Fulgoni, Executive Chairman and Co-founder of comScore, Inc., likes to quote Henry Ford when he was asked whether he listened to customers when he created the automobile. Ford’s reply was that had he listened to customers, he would have built a fast horse; the automobile was the result of innovation.

Fulgoni is very much, like Ford, an innovator. When he and his partner, Magid Abraham, launched comScore as an organization that would gather digital marketing intelligence from internet statistics, he was very clear about not listening to popular wisdom about what was to be measured. The traditional measurement of counting number of clicks or number of visitors to a page was immediately apparent to Fulgoni as a false measure of success. Recalling the words of H.L. Mencken, Fulgoni says, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple – and wrong.”

For digital marketing intelligence to be effective to the sectors with a need – ecommerce, marketing, and consumer platforms – the data needs to go far beyond a numbers game. It must have some effectiveness and be used with some efficiency – for example, what the information do you need to design an effective online marketing plan? When companies turn to ready sources of information such as server logs, Fulgoni is quick to dispel the notion that those statistics bring meaningful value .

It’s easy to be lulled into thinking that computers “automagically” tally all your stats, and report back with accurate counts. But the situation is actually the opposite; it’s easy to let the computer count everything and not apply human thinking. Or, in Einstein’s words, everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted. Fulgoni cites the example of using server logs to determine audience size; because of cookie cleaning, the audience overestimation is generally set at a factor of 2.5 – in other words, your audience is probably 40% of what you estimate it to be.

When calculating audience reaction to ad campaigns, Fulgoni also reminds us that the World Wide Web is called that for a reason. US sites get almost half of their traffic from around the world – international traffic unlikely to count toward potential sales. These numbers generally don’t get separated out from server logs. Nor is bot activity often separated out from the server log numbers.

Harder to separate is the qualitative data. For example, recent research has shown that people who click on ads are younger and less affluent, so other than for direct response ads, using number of ad clicks is not a good measure of effectiveness for an online ad campaign. Nor is cookie tracking behavior, really, as you never know if the person using the computer today is the same person who used the computer yesterday or last week.

The unreliability of such information, and the possibility of finding a way to provide it, was was motivated Fulgoni to start comScore. They convinced two million people – a million people in North America, and a million people elsewhere around the world – to let them track their internet use, to help them understand internet behavior. In the words of Albert Einstein, Fulgoni has been “passionately curious” and has been bringing the informative results of his findings to benefit of the industry ever since.

Don’t miss Fulgoni’s featured presentation, Maximizing the ROI from Online Marketing at Web Content 2008 Chicago (June 17-18, 2008). Fulgoni will examine how consumers are using the Internet and identify the ways in which advertisers can best market to them. This will also reveal the key metrics that marketers need to use as they plan and analyze their online marketing efforts so as to maximize their ROI.

The database used for this discussion will be comScore’s panel of 2 million people who have given comScore explicit permission to track the complete details of their online activities.