“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Ran Cohen, vice president of programmatic strategy at Undertone.
As more ad spending follows consumers to digital channels, those channels are being monitored and reviewed more closely than ever. Advertisers recognize not only the opportunity but also the complexity of online advertising. Unlike the traditional TV model, where specific spots are selected, digital advertisers are often unsure of precisely when and where to find their ads. This creates a strong need for measurement and reporting, but what exactly should buyers measure?
The most important thing to monitor is the value of the campaign to the brand. In reality, the value includes the short- and long-term revenue impact. In practice, this type of measurement isn’t easy to come by so proxies are created.
For a long time the leading proxy was the click-through rate (CTR), but marketers increasingly realize that this is a weak proxy for two main reasons. Many studies, for example, show a low, or sometimes negative, correlation between CTR and brand metrics, such as brand recall, brand favorability and purchase intent. Also, various players have learned to game the system with fraudulent clicks.
An alternative to CTR has quickly developed as advertisers turned their focus to quality. And while “quality” may seem like a vague term, there are several key ways that marketers should measure it.
Are Ads Seen?
This has become Measurement 101: Are humans – not suspicious traffic, such as bots – exposed to the ads? Are resultant ad engagements legitimate? Do the ads have the opportunity to be viewed or are they far down the page? These are very basic questions, but they’re the first step in determining quality.
Does The Environment Match The Brand Message?
Where ads appear matters. Marketers need to ask if the environment in which ads appear dilutes or enhances the brand. Start with a human review to vet and score the environment for elements such as aesthetic, content depth, images and the brands that are sponsoring the pages.
Second, vendors can help with a technological review to measure the viewability of different placements and identify the amount of suspicious traffic, the density of ads, the number of connections to social networks and followers and determine the size of ad placements as a percentage of the screen size. These items can be evaluated on a scale to produce a base quality score. The inventory can be considered high-quality if publishers and placements are in line with the base score.
Does The Ad Stand?
Real humans viewing ads in quality environments sounds like it should be enough, but it’s not. Think about Times Square and its many ads competing for attention. Ask yourself: If I had to advertise here, how would I make my message stand out? In the context of Times Square, size, position, motion and sound are all important. If the creative is visually attractive and unique in some way, the chances are even greater that the ad will truly make an impact. All of these variables also translate to digital.
Some specific creative variables that give ads a better chance of standing out include larger ad canvas ads with more total pixels, which are generally more impactful. Aesthetically pleasing creative and compelling messaging is also key, as is page placement that optimizes viewing time and engagement, and the integration of video and sound in a polite manner.
Are The Ads Targeted Correctly?
Large, well-designed ads delivered to a qualified list of sites and vetted for placement and traffic legitimacy nearly guarantee quality advertising. But there’s one last element missing: targeting. Audience targeting and frequency controls ensure that the right user is exposed for the right amount of time, while contextual targeting verifies that the consumer is in the right mindset to be exposed to the ad. Ensuring that your brand message reaches the right audience is the last piece of the quality puzzle.
A focus on quality is crucial for the digital ad industry. Advertisers need to give up the crutch of CTR and turn their attention to quality measures, while top publishers who want to attract brand dollars are responsible for creating quality environments with opportunities for standout creative units. All sides – publishers, marketers, agencies and vendors, must take responsibility to move the focus from CTR to quality. Its time has arrived.