Ctr UK Digital Transformation

Are clickers your clients? And how do we measure what really matters?

October 31, 2014 | 5 min read

Back in 2009 comScore released statistics that demonstrated that only eight per cent of internet users accounted for 85 per cent of clicks.

Cameron Hulett

As a result, savvy marketers began to question the typical approach of optimising ad campaigns based on ‘click-through rates’ (CTR). And in fact, they may find that optimising on CTR may even be a less effective use of marketing spend than not optimising at all.

Most marketers have arrived at the conclusion that all ad impressions – whether clicked on or not – have an impact on consumer behaviour. So why is the CTR metric still so popular? The key reasons for many are familiarity and the ability to apply one simple metric across all channels.

This all started from search engine advertising where many in the industry began their careers. So imagine running a search ad, a simple banner ad and a high impact full screen take-over ad. And you are in a rush. What metric do you use to report on the success of the campaign and compare the different channels you used? The easy answer is CTR.

Interestingly CTR is still used for brand campaigns, even though in some instances the marketer shouldn’t want the consumer to click away from the ad. For example, imagine a highly interactive full-page ad for a movie launch, where the consumer can view the trailer, see social comments, find the nearest cinema and even book online. Would you want the consumer to click away from this ad? NEVER! That means click rates become not only irrelevant to high-impact ads, but possibly a negative from a performance perspective.

Added to this, there are many pitfalls to using CTR, as Mercedes discovered in May this year. The car maker found that more bots saw its advert than human eyes. With click fraud so easy to fall victim to, campaigns that have in previous years had successful CTR have now come under scrutiny. In fact, if click rates are high on a particular site, bot fraud monitoring systems actually classify such traffic as suspect. So it is now becoming more important to establish which clicks were actually made with human hands, and if they were, whether they are becoming customers.

For direct response campaigns, optimising on clicks may be useful. But add up all the facts above and you see that for typical brand campaigns, clickers are probably NOT your clients.

That means marketers are going to have to step out of the CTR comfort zone if they want more tangible and believable results. The variety of ad formats that consumers interact with means that a more sophisticated measurement needs to be applied in order to really see if campaigns are performing well or not. So what other metrics are marketers looking at to replace CTR? The answers: engagement and dwell time.

Engagement and dwell time both give a far more accurate measure of performance, especially for brand campaigns. The difficulty however comes back to when trying to compare standard ad formats (where all you can do is click) to high impact formats (where you can measure real engagement and dwell time on the ad).

The significant difference in performance between the two formats mentioned has been proven in studies, such as one carried out by IPSOS, which showed high-impact ads had a 142 per cent greater brand recognition when compared to standard display ads. Likewise Quantcast demonstrated that rather than clicking and immediately buying, ad viewers waited, only going back to the website some time later to make the purchase.

While it will of course take time to educate brand advertisers away from methods they are most confortable with, the pitfalls of CTR and the success of smarter metrics cannot be ignored.

It is time for advertisers to use more suitbable methods so that ad campaigns will be measured more efficiently and earn the marketer’s trust, ensuring they understand who clicks, who engages and how that truly effects the success of their campaigns.

Cameron Hulett is executive director, EMEA at Undertone

Ctr UK Digital Transformation

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