Google – the super power that still holds the strongest foothold in digital advertising revenue, left more than just easy-access search results for consumers. For those of us in the advertising industry, Google set the foundation for how ads were bought and how we would ultimately measure their performance.
If you have ever thought of “What did we actually achieve” by way of digital advertising more than a few times during your careers.. well, Google may have held a critical role in the confusion surrounding how to best measure digital media.
I’ve inserted a great image (see below) that shows the timeline of Google’s development over the last decade. I love this chart because it not only helps remind us of where all this technology came from but also how quickly we got to where we are. For the purpose of this entry, look at when Search was launched (1998) and when DoubleClick ( a widely used technology platform used for serving display and video ads to digital consumers) was bought.
The introduction of digital media to many came in the form of Google Search Ads and it’s platform Adwords that would help manage it all. It is relatively easy to set up search ads in Adwords and cheap to try for small, medium or large businesses. However, the underlying method to get the most “bang for your buck” on the platform involved getting a very high CTR (Click through rate) for your ads. The higher the CTR, the lower you paid. So, digital agencies and clients alike quickly became accustomed to Google’s Adwords platform and this method of determining the pass or fail of ads. However, the larger implications of this went unnoticed by the best of us. CTR quickly became confused as the measure to use if you’re interested in understanding the impact your ad on your brand. But, how many TV ads can we say have been a success or failure because of it’s click through rate?
In a short span of time, Clicks (traffic to website) and CTR became one of the most important delimiter for success and failure of online ads… not because it made sense, but because Google mandated this with their ad model. It also didn’t help that many networks quickly cropped up that sold their ads with a CPC (Cost per click) currency. The notion of CTR based optimization and media buying spawned and took a very strong foothold in the industry and in clients’ minds. Aside, I still work very hard today to clear this misunderstanding for my clients.
So what does it all mean? While CTR can hold value for direct marketing objectives, it is hardly a good measure for success for branding objectives. At Media Contacts, we have started to incorporate technology that helps us measure the brand impact of ads close to real-time on campaigns. As well, other members of the advertising industry have also been questioning the efficacy of existing forms of measurement and have started to develop much more interesting and viable platforms of online measurement techniques. One of the more notable studies in this field was recently conducted by Microsoft in conjunction with Neilson. It compares the impact of online video ads as related to brand measures. A worth while read for those who believe there’s more to success than the click when it comes to digital advertising.