Some Skeptical of DoubleClick Report's Proof of Online Ad Effectiveness

The latest ad serving report from DoubleClick indicates an increase in online ad standardization and efficiency. However, what best proves online ad effectiveness remains in debate.

DoubleClick’s Ad Serving Trend Report represents an aggregate of more than 630 billion ads served through the firm’s DART platform during Q4 and full year 2002. The company believes that increases in view-through rates and usage of larger ad formats, rich media and targeting show the “continued effectiveness of online advertising.” Some aren’t entirely convinced.

“It’s too early to use third party ad serving data counts as the primary measurement of whether the medium is working,” opines Adam Gerber, director, media strategy at The Digital Edge and chairman of the Eastern Interactive Marketing & New Media Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, “but I'd take it as a signal that marketers are still investing in learning, and that some may have gotten to a point where significant expenditures online are justified."

One metric DoubleClick highlights is the percentage of standard ad usage, which held steady over the past year at 70%. It also suggests that increased use of large ad formats like the skyscraper, which more than doubled in Q4 as compared to Q1, and the large rectangle, which quadrupled from Q1 to Q4, shows more efficiency in the marketplace.

A rise in the use of rich media, up 43% from Q1 to Q4, also displays online ad effectiveness according to the report. About 25% of ads served by DoubleClick employed rich media, and click-through rates of rich media ads maintained their average of approximately 2.5% in Q4. Non-rich media CTR’s dropped from 0.4% in Q1 to 0.3% in Q4.

In following the industry’s continuing shift towards assessing Web ads not only by CTR, but by their latent, branding effects, DoubleClick measured view-through rates, which track “users who convert within 30 days of seeing an ad, but do not click on a banner.” View-throughs rose 47%, from approximately 0.36% in Q1 to 0.53% in Q4.

“The question becomes, ‘why is that metric changing?’ “ says Scott Spencer, director of product management for publisher solutions at DoubleClick. He chalks it up to the increases in rich media and large ad formats.

Nick Nyhan, president of research firm, Dynamic Logic, agrees it makes sense to track response with view-through numbers because “click-through doesn’t tell whole story.” Still, he cautions that “for P&G or GM, where they sell most products offline, view-throughs are less important, because they want conversion offline.”

Regardless, according to an October 2002 edition of The Jack Myers Report, agency executives rated CTR’s as the metric they’d use most to plan and measure online advertising in the next twelve months. Website traffic and online conversion rates were also listed among the most significant factors.

Overall, DoubleClick views the recent report as an indication that online ads are becoming more and more like their traditional media brethren. Spencer points to slow growth in the use of keyword and content targeting (up 2% from Q1 to 42% in Q4) and day-part targeting (up just 0.1% from Q1 to 1.4% in Q4) as examples of increased use of offline based methodologies.

“This is a great amount of data to look at to understand what’s going on,” he concludes. “It shows that online advertising is becoming much more like other forms of ads like TV and print.”