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Display Advertising – Measuring Performance, Maximising Potential

Written by Matt | 18-Sep-2014 13:03:01

‘Our CTR is 250% higher than the industry average’….so what?

I was reading an article on econsultancy recently about how to make your display campaigns better and, in amongst many valid points and observations, one point of concern jumped out at me several times. One of the main conclusions of the article was that a well optimised campaign will drive more valuable clicks which will be more likely to convert into paying customers.

Clicks?! No, no, no, this is not the way display works! I could sit here and reel off a number of different stats that shows the futility of equating clicks with a successful display campaign, but the main point to be aware of is this: people clicking on your advert are not necessarily your customers.

At equimedia, we always present our display results from the perspective of both post-click and, more importantly, post-impression performance. For the vast majority of our campaigns, it is through post-impression that we see the true value and influence of display coming to the fore. For example, one of our clients based in the financial services sector sees upwards of 95% of conversions coming via post-impression.

So why the prominence of post-impression over post-click?

Well the answer lies in strategy. Display operates in an environment that exists outside of ‘in-market’, much higher up the funnel, in what we refer to as the consideration phase. Display reaches, and influences, potential customers when they are perhaps evaluating the pros and cons and several goods or service providers. Given that they are not at the point of conversion, which is much lower down the funnel, their tendency to click on a banner immediately after having seen it is heavily reduced. The role of display is to act as a subtle sign post directing a user through to a search engine, to perform the conversion, or to lead them through to the site via typing the URL or through other organic links. The fact that display operates in this consideration phase means that the relationship between a banner being served and a subsequent click is almost non-existent and why the conversions should be the main optimising metric of your campaign, rather than trying to drive more clicks.

The above strategy is fine for when you are managing a campaign yourself. But how can achieve a strategy when you are relying on a third party to manage the campaign for you? Whenever we are planning media campaigns for clients, we often work closely with publishers across many different sectors to plan and execute any number of campaigns. Historically, publishers have often sold in their site by promoting their click through rate metrics and how awesome they are in comparison to the industry average. A 0.2% CTR compared to an average of 0.04% makes for impressive reading and would encourage many to part with their cash to book a campaign. But, as we have outlined above, clicks are not the factor upon which we should be judging success.

Why are clicks so important to publishers?

It is not the publishers’ fault they focus on such things. Often, the only insight into performance they have is impressions and clicks and so CTR, inevitably, becomes their go to metric for success. However, if we are expecting publishers to work as hard for our client as we do ourselves on every campaign, then why should we limit their insights and put them at a disadvantage in their attempts at success?

The answer is more synergy and a closer working relationship. For the past 12-18 months we have been maximising campaign performance across each and every partner by pulling our resources together. We are providing publishers with daily performance reports so they can map exactly which elements of the campaign are performing better and which need to be worked on and we are holding more weekly catch up meetings with them then we ever have before. In a sense, we have placed the conversion, rather than the click, at the centre of all of our interactions and our media plans are performing better now than they ever have.

I am still surprised whenever I am faced with a publisher who is waxing lyrical about their industry-leading CTRs, but when you counter with ‘that all sounds great, but what do those clicks mean’, they become a little lost. For us to find meaning and purpose in the role of display then we need to step away from such metrics as clicks and CTR because the insight these give us is like going bird watching through the wrong end of the binoculars.

Digital Display gives us access to streams of data that we use in the team to generate the best possible performance from the campaigns we manage via our agency trading desk, Kaizen Platform. Through closer, and more open, working relationships with publishers, we now ensure that their campaigns are working just as hard for the client as we are, which ensures a well-executed and successful media plan.