Blame clicks, not banner ads. You are what your measure

click2-smallBanner ads have been in existence since the Jurassic (measured in Internet Age) and in recent years, these poor old ancient creatures have often been mocked at, especially from the new kids on the block, notably Native Advertising.  This article from Hubspot pointed out 10 Horrifying Stats about Display Ads and here are some interesting few:

  1. Only 8% of internet users account for 85% of clicks on display ads (and some of them aren’t even humans!). (Source: comScore
  2. The average clickthrough rate of display ads is 0.1%. (Source: DoubleClick
  3. You are more likely to get a full house while playing poker than click on a banner ad.(Source: Solve Media

And there is epidemic spread of “Banner Blindness” sickness spread among Internet users, with few studies (Here is one by Nielsen Norman Group) conducted using eye-tracking research have suggested that users tend to ignore contents that remotely look like advertisement.

Despite number of bashing,  like never-say-died cockroaches, it seems that banner ads are all well and thriving and seems still million years before extinction. According to emarketer, display advertising for programmatic still account for bulk of online spend (Beside Search) and is projected to reach US$32.6 Billion worldwide. So why we are crying foul of banner ads not working, yet at the same time, marketers are still heavily invested in them?

Measure the right metrics.

If you look at stats from the Hubspot article, most of them blamed banner ads base on one single metric:

Clicks or click through rate (CTR)

And this is where the fault lies. First of all, you need to asked is clicks or CTR the metrics you measure the success of your campaign?  If you are running direct response ads with main aim is for users to click on the banner and drive traffic, measuring clicks will be totally fine. But if your objective to drive top level metrics such as brand awareness or favorability, then click is definitely the wrong measurement.

Don’t Measure Click Through Rate

First of all, stop using Click Through Rate (CTR) as the metric to measure your campaign success.  CTR doesn’t really tell how (un)successful your campaign is. It doesn’t tell how many people your message has reached or how many people responded. It just show Clicks over Impressions in percent, that’s all. And it’s usually hover around 0.1%. Anything 0.1% is going to be questioned by anyone (What about that 99.9%?)   Use CTR solely for your optimization of your campaign to help you to increase clicks for direct response campaign.

Measure Viewability and Engagement

And if your campaign objective is mainly conversion or action, rely on clicks may lead you to no where. In this study by Comscore,  ad viewability and engagement (hover time) are strongly correlated with conversions, while clicks have lowest correlation with conversion. Viewability is defined as served impression in which a minimum of 50 percent of pixels are in view on a user’s screen for a minimum of one consecutive second (IAB). Engagement, in this case, is pertaining to rich media banners and measured by hover time or Dwell Rate: The percentage of users exposed to a given piece of rich media content or advertising who interact with that content moving their cursors over it (but not clicking). (IAB)

Measure Viewthrough

A study shows that a frequency of 7-10 banner exposure will result in 28% increase in sales volume over control group. So it’s rare that those who click will convert immediately within a user session. So it’s also important to measure viewthrough, which indicates conversion after users has viewed the banners (even if they have not clicked).

Measure Unique Reach and Share of Voice

Beside impression, which is the most common measurement for display banners,  another metric you should consider is unique reach. If you or your media agency has done due diligence to ensure most of your display ads are expose to your target audience, then we can measure the share of voice among your target audience.

Share of voice (%): No. of target audience your banner display uniquely reached / Total target audience.

Measure Brand Lift

Many of display banners objective are really simple: To cut the clutter and get the message across to your target audience, whether the objective is for brand awareness or for perception change. And measure that, you will need to rely on brand study:  Either through Pre/Post survey or Control/Test survey to measure brand lift.

Ultimately, it’s the Creative. S&%^$

Ultimately, even if you have the best media strategy, plan and placement, it’s still the creative that ultimately determine your campaign effectiveness. One interesting study by Dynamic logic back in 2009 (What 2009!?) determined that it’s bad creative that makes display ads ineffective and good creatives have result in uplift of brand awareness and purchase intent. And do check out some of their recommendation of better performance creatives. Here is another interesting (but contrarily) article on best practices you should ignore.

So if you still obsessed with clicks and CTR, it’s time to think again. Well, this excellent video from Adobe sum it all up.

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