Online Brand Ad Performance Isn't Subjective: You Deliver Or You Don't

We can all agree that this year’s Oscar nominees for best actor had great individual performances in 2011. Nominees aren’t judged by which actor got paid the most, or which movie had the highest gross. We can all recognize award-worthy performances when we see them.

Sadly, we can’t all agree on award-worthy online brand advertising performance. Depending on whom you ask, "performance" can mean anything -- clicks, views, rollovers or hover time. Marketers and publishers have traditionally relied on CPCs, CPEs, CPVs and CPM’s to gauge performance, then developed new acronyms when performance needs to be tweaked and redefined.

However, real performance should never be this subjective. It should be about showing brands how an online marketing effort affects and influences consumer behavior.  Anything else is fuzzy logic.

Fractional views and scant clicks
There are many campaign reports that highlight double or triple click-through rates above the industry average. However, clicks have almost no bearing on a consumer’s recall, favorability or purchase intent. By the same token, views or impressions likely have even less impact. Pre-roll ads are not valuable if a user disengages by checking Facebook or sending a text message.

Ad technology companies need to prove that online buys are building toward measurable brand building goals, and that the industry is developing the right metrics that demonstrate ROI across campaigns. Branding is emotive, and the science behind measuring it can’t be limited to a simple click counter.

This approach demands more industry research and development -- good science takes longer and costs more. Isn’t it worth it to capture more brand advertising dollars?  Given that the direct response market is mature, and industry growth is dependent upon brand dollars, do we really have a choice?

KISS method
Keep it super simple. The alternative measurement for brand campaigns is more than a complex, acronym-laden scale or a dashboard with colorful graphs.

Let’s define engagement in terms of how someone should interact with a brand ad to achieve a stated purpose. Was interaction achieved in a meaningful way (no accidental click or roll-overs)? Did the user fully understand the brand message? What did the consumer remember about the brand? Did that association impact a potential purchasing decision?

These metrics make it rational to pay for desired behaviors instead of paying for views, click-throughs or hollow impressions. For publishers, these metrics could transform how they sell and how they are valued. Shifting away from selling discounted audiences to focus instead on selling premium behaviors, is a step in the right direction.

Consider scenarios where a publisher charges on a performance-basis (users share a link, watch a video, print a coupon, type a brand’s message, initiate a transaction). This is the reality of performance-based branding.

Publishers impact
Publishers have a keen understanding of their audience. They have the wherewithal to predict which marketing campaigns will work, and which campaigns will fail. They can identify specific behaviors as performance metrics that they can sell to an advertiser. Publishers will be able to build advertising campaigns that can measurably deliver on both branding and business goals. As a result, marketers will pay higher rates on customized campaigns that deliver distinct behaviors.

In 2012, I expect to see a variety of publishers and agencies collaborate on online brand campaigns designed to produce specific user behaviors. This new dynamic of performance-based branding, where marketers only pay when users take specific actions, has been expected for some time. With better math and science, we should see more brand dollars in Q2 of 2012 than we did a year ago.

That said, it will take more R&D and backbone to “productize” performance-based branding across the industry. As an industry, we can accelerate the flow of brand dollars online by embracing this approach and delivering objective brand metrics to market.

The campaign either worked or it didn’t. At the very least, let’s guarantee that a typical consumer engaged with a brand message and can recall it favorably. Settling for less is bad science -- and that hurts the entire industry.

2 comments about "Online Brand Ad Performance Isn't Subjective: You Deliver Or You Don't".
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  1. Peter S. Klein from MediaWhiz, March 5, 2012 at 11:32 a.m.

    Great commentary, I could not agree more, Ari. Performance means so many different things, so the critical piece is that the Advertiser and Publisher agree on campaign goals and KPI targets BEFORE launch. This is the only way success can be measured properly and both sides can optimize accordingly.

  2. Mickey Mc from MickeyMc, March 8, 2012 at 6:39 p.m.
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