Digital Display Advertising – Beyond CTR

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Before the digital boom, many brands were happy to advertise on TV, in newspapers and billboards without having any solid evidence on the exact source generating a sale. However, since the global financial crisis, the emphasis and pressure has grown on marketing professionals to quantify the value of any ad spend. With the infinite list of statistics digital media provides, it has become somewhat an easy option for marketers to justify.

There is one fundamental flaw that most advertisers are guilty of with this approach. This is focusing specifically on display advertisings “last event” role (i.e. CTR, last click or last view before purchase or action), rather than its overall business value. This approach doesn’t take into consideration the customer journey online or the brand awareness benefits that reaching an audience online can produce.

This holds more truth when advertising a product that requires a lot of research, such as a property. Focusing on last event results encourages advertisers to invest too much of their budgets in optimising towards reaching consumers who are near the end of the buying cycle. Of course this is a great time to reach someone, however why not expand this and efficiently use digital display for the same purposes that print, TV, outdoor and radio are used, and target consumers who are at the start or early on in the buying cycle to raise awareness, which will ultimately deliver a better ROI?

It may be stating the obvious but how can an ad influence a consumer to purchase if it is not seen? The answer is of course it cannot.  However, the majority of digital advertisers optimising towards the last event will not focus on, or report on, achieving viewability.

On average, around 40% of display network ad impressions in a campaign would be classified as un-viewable, for example if it is below the fold. The IAB defines an ad as visible if it has at least 50% of it in view for at least 1 second.

A case study undertaken by Waitrose, who teamed up with Infectious Media, a programmatic advertising specialist, goes someway into showing a better way to measure the real value of display ads. They do this by focusing heavily on viewability, combined with other targeting data points.

The test measured the behavioral differences, such as website behavior and purchasing, between people who were shown at least one viewable ad and those shown at least one non-viewable ad in the same campaign.

Initially, there was no identifiable difference in results between users who had a viewable or non-viewable ad served. However, after extensive optimising and analysis, which can only be done programmatically, it became apparent that the largest impact of sales was related to the number of viewable ads a user was served.

More specifically, sales significantly increased when a user was served at least 5 ads within a 1 month period. There was a plateau when users were served over 10 ads in a month, however a clear optimum number had been identified.

On this basis, not only contextual, environment and behavioral targeting should be considered, but equally, if not more important is frequency. Campaigns that reach the correct audience segments but at low frequency levels are almost as wasteful as displaying non-viewable ads.

Optimising campaigns towards CTR may reduce the frequency an ad is served because if a user hadn’t clicked after being served the ad a number of times, they may be deemed irrelevant.

There are still many discoveries to be made into delivering the optimum digital campaign, however moving further away than purely measuring the last event is a good first step.


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