Measurement and Clicks - Why the Focus on CTR?

Mary Healy, Digital Lead, Global Accounts, Accenture

We are an industry caught in a conundrum. While we celebrate the uniqueness of each campaign, with its specific KPIs and measures of success, we simultaneously have the need to measure market trends and understand if our pricing is competitive.

This conflict, between the overly-complicated bombardment of metrics and overly-simplified reduction to the lowest common price denominator, often stems from the disconnect between the campaign manager and the procurement manager.

The digital campaign manager chases the elusive goal of testing the new, which results in constant optimisation and continually creating a new version of what ‘good’ looks like. This can lead to a sea of inconsistent metrics which adds to the difficulty of tracking performance or truly understanding which partners are driving the most value.

In contrast, the procurement manager requires consistency and certainty that the media budget is being spent in a responsible manner, but can appear unable to accomodate the nuance of campaign planning, or factor in the complexities of attribution models and journey paths.

Both of these motivations are perfectly legitimate and necessary in delivering responsible business growth, but when it comes to media metrics there is a clear disconnect.

Without a good understanding of which metrics are the most important to your brand, you run the risk of getting lost in a sea of data points with no clear charter on how to make sense of them.

Inevitably, each campaign then develops its own set of measurement criteria with no way of comparing campaigns, brands or success over time. As a result, the only way to make any sense of the data is to reduce everything down to the lowest common denominator, which may have very little to do with the interaction behaviours the brand was trying to evoke in their audience.

When we make these simplifications we are sabotaging ourselves.

The problem with using clicks as a proxy for success often means ads “perform” better on poor quality content (since there is nothing else to click on) or on poorly designed pages (users accidently clicking on ads) which, let’s be honest, is not a great place to promote your brand.

By focusing solely on CTR, these sites get promoted ahead of publishers producing interesting, relevant and high-quality content; content around which a brand can benefit from the association with the contextually relevant and brand safe environment.

In our experience, the first step to bridging the gap is to set brand level as well as campaign level KPIs. These need to be relevant to the objectives and behaviours they are trying to drive and have a consistent thread throughout.

The current measurement system has developed as a result of trying to fit digital measurement into a traditional model.

Traditional media is bought on space not performance, making it easy to articulate cost comparisons across media owners or against the market. I love this about TV and press, it is so lovely and neat, everyone understands it and everyone is negotiating on the same parameters.

But digital is messy, digital is dynamic and - for better or worse - it has the ability to offer a wide spectrum of inventory, but not all of it is created equal. Why would we want to compare the CPM of a long tale click bait site to that of the homepage of the Guardian? Or the CPC paid by an FMCG promoting a £1 bar of soap to a that of a car manufacturer client trying to sell a £50,000 car? It doesn’t make sense. And it is not doing anyone any favours by setting goals that are not relevant to the business objective.

Is cost important? Yes. As is the need to look for ways to drive efficiencies by cutting wasted spend, optimising pathways or understanding market dynamics to buy the best inventory at the lowest price. But we mustn’t think cost is the only factor to be optimised, at the expense of everything else and we must view cost in the context of quality and performance.

There are some basic quality metrics everyone should be tracking such as, ‘was it seen’ and ‘was it human’, but after that the metrics become customised by the brand and its objectives.

In our dream-state, it would be wonderful to directly attribute every impression to a sale, but the reality is not every brand has an ecommerce offering and not every ad has a direct response objective that can be tracked in this way. It is these brand campaigns which commonly fall into trap of looking primarily at the CTR to measure success.

In the absence of performance metrics such as leads or sales there are quality aspects to be considered alongside the cost of the media. These might include dwell time, bounce rates, contextual environment or impact. With a little more investment brands can also utilise brand uplift studies and attribution models to understand the behaviours which drive the desired outcome (think subscriptions, on and offline sales, repeat visitors or a specific action on your site).

Admittedly I have listed a number of metrics here that may or may not all be important to a brand, but rather than try to look at them all at once, it is essential is to understand the hirachy and how they perform in combination with each other. To do this brands must identify what is most important to them and develop a consistent methodology to make comparisons and/or attribute value, and to ensure this is articulated before the campaign starts in order to understand what to measure at the end.

This may sound obvious as a theory, but the question remains how and where to start? At Accenture we start with a rigorous process of working with advertisers to understand what they value and what behaviours they are trying to drive across their audience. This isn’t just what they can measure, but what they should be measuring. We then work with them to ensure they have access to all the necessary data to draw out the required insights.

Many advertisers are discovering they are not fully in control of their data, and as a result, they are at the mercy of others to understand what is working or not. However, by gaining ownership of the data, advertisers both in the marketing and procurement divisions can gain full visibility into their metrics. This transparency not only allows them to make informed decisions with confidence, but builds trust across their ecosystem.

With both marketing and procurement feeling more in control of their data though clear, consistent measurable and accessible KPIs the need for over simplication is reduced.

It all starts with clear, consistent, measurable and transparent metrics.

For further insight into the most appropriate and effective measurement strategies for your campaign, download the IAB Measurement Toolkit at: www.iabuk.com/measurement

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