“Don’t be a clickhead” was indeed the opening of the letter that the IAB sent out to hundreds of advertisers on the 12th of February to make them aware of the obsolescence of the CTR as a performance metric for the digital campaigns.
It goes without saying that the CTR has been a magnificent indicator for campaigns performance in the past times, when a digital display campaign was something completely new to marketers, and more especially, for advertisers and the web surfers. But if context still has a place in our analysis, then we also have to keep in mind that times have changed quite a lot since that first moment in which the CTR became the master KPI to evaluate all the digital campaigns performance. That is even truer if we think that the first banner that was ever displayed in 1994 recorded a CTR of 44% (!). This is clearly possible to explain through the very limited technologic environment in which users were browsing the web for their first times: slow internet connections, basic designed websites and lack of engaging contents (videos, for example).
But those days are, depending on the point of views, (un)fortunately over.
Nowadays, the world of internet and digital campaigns has gone through such an incredible and fast paced evolution that requires a much more complex and multidimensional evaluation approach that the simple click itself can’t effectively explain anymore. If we were to use a metaphor, we might say that using only the CTR as a display main metric of success can be comparable to going to the opera, with an amazing orchestra playing a wonderful melody, but at the same time having voiceless singers on the stage. The core of the opera still exists (the music by the orchestra), but the risk is not to hear and understand the whole story on the stage, due to the lack of storytelling by the voiceless singers.
The same metaphor goes for advertisers and agencies that don’t embrace the change that the digital world had already put in place years ago: the lack of a proper approach to evaluate digital campaigns poses at a high risk the people brand understanding. Without considering other metrics than the CTR, the brands story will be always incomplete, as an opera will be incomplete without its singers acting on the stage.
There is a wealth of indicators and strategies that advertisers can use to optimize more effectively their campaigns (and their storytelling), rather than just looking at how many times an ad has been clicked. In a world where our attention span is increasingly reducing due to multitasking and living in a multidevice environment, advertisers and agencies have to be more courageous in managing the media spend and start including some very useful tools that are now increasingly becoming more and more available. Commendably, the IAB put together a measurement toolkit,which includes some useful best practices that might empower brands in increasing the effectiveness of their media spend.
Starting from effective and agreed attribution models to brand lift studies (so to check, for example, how the brand awareness, favourability and consideration changes thanks to the media spend) to the more complicated (and yes, also more expensive) econometrics analysis, countless possibilities for brands are definitely in place. All this, though, must always go along with adequate creative support, which often goes missing as already noted previously in one other blog post. Too often, in fact, media spends tend to be focused mainly on the media buying itself, without a sufficient consideration of the great potentialities that an engaging and various set of creative assets can represent for a digital campaign. Different creative concepts can drive different results and bring more knowledge than just running with only one set of standard banners.
Not to mention the different ways of buying that the market has already started trying. The old (but gold, in certain aspects) CPM buying is something that could be put aside, if more space to more innovative buying models will be given. Just to mention one, The FT created a new digital advertising currency, the ‘cost per hour’ (CPH), which allows advertisers to directly buy the attention of their target audience, thanks to a thorough analysis of the dwell time and actions carried out by their audience on the website, which showed that when users are exposed to an ad for at least 5 seconds, all the awareness metrics get an uplift because of the continued exposure to the brand. Admittedly, this new buying metric might only be suitable for very premium and exclusive environments at the moment, but at the same time it opens the horizons to explore new ways of buying.
In conclusion, even though the National Anti-Click-Through Rate Day hasn’t managed to grab the attention of the general public, maybe still drawn into the National Plum Pudding Day, we as industry players must have a more proactive attitude towards the challenges of the digital landscape in our daily tasks, as the fundamental relationship between brands and their customers is often supported by agencies that will now have to work more and more as consultancy agencies, able to recommend and advice brands on how to improve that relationship day on day.
To finish with another (last, I promise) musical metaphor: if we don’t want the music to stop, we will all have to learn playing new instruments.