Publishers should assess and maximise the impact of their advertising campaigns. They can achieve this by monitoring the metrics to achieve the best possible outcome, says Denise Colella.
Online display advertising -- one of the fastest growing sectors in the world -- is becoming an increasingly competitive arena. In fact, a recent study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) revealed that online ad spend had grown by 14.4 per cent in 2011, with display advertising passing the £1bn mark for the first time ever. With this is mind, publishers need to understand how to critically assess and maximise the impact of their advertising campaigns, monitoring the metrics to achieve the best possible outcome. Optimisation, creative management and even campaign objectives must gel so that advertisers achieve their desired outcome and publishers are able to achieve the competitive edge.
Over the pond
Understanding the factors that publishers face, ad optimisation company, Maxifier, recently undertook a study into the decisions facing media planners and agency buyers every day, contrasting differences in opinion and trends in both the U.K. and the U.S. The study revealed some startling differences, as well as interesting similarities, between the two.
So, just what do agencies consider most important when planning a campaign?
For any publisher, optimisation of a campaign can be vital for its success. Interestingly though, most campaigns are first optimised when they are already one-fifth completed (22 per cent for brand campaigns and 21 per cent for direct response campaigns across the U.K. and U.S.). This begs the question of why campaigns aren't optimised sooner to ensure an even more effective campaign. U.K. publishers are slightly quicker off the mark, starting their optimisation when campaigns are 17 per cent completed, whereas U.S. publishers only optimise a quarter of the way through (25 per cent). On average, U.K. and U.S. campaigns are optimised 10 times (nine times for brand campaigns and -- not surprisingly -- more for direct response campaigns where it is 11 times) to ensure the most effective positioning is achieved.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff
Compared to print advertising, the technology available to track and interpret the metrics of today's digital campaigns means it's easy to assess whether a particular website is achieving the desired response for an advertiser's campaign, whether this be a click-through or a conversion. So it seems logical that the average website dropout rate for direct response campaigns -- where the website isn't achieving the client's objective -- is greater than that of brand campaigns (12 per cent and 9 per cent respectively).
Enhancing the landscape
Choosing the right campaign metrics is a complex process and it seems there is no clear consensus among advertisers when it comes to the most important factor in ensuring a successful campaign. Cost per conversion ranks the highest for both markets, with an average score of 4.1 out of 12 (with one being the most important), although this appears a much more important metric in the U.K., where it scores 3.4 compared with 5.0 for the U.S. In terms of differences between the markets, it seems that U.K. publishers are leaning slightly more towards direct response metrics, with cost per conversion, new lead sign up and conversion rate being the top three metrics. In comparison, cost per conversion, conversion rate, and then brand awareness come out on top for their U.S. counterparts. Part of this difference can be explained by the campaign split. While in the U.K. two-thirds of budgets were allocated to direct response campaigns (67 per cent), it was just over half in the U.S. (54 per cent), where 43 per cent of the budget was invested in brand campaigns (compared to only 31 per cent for the U.K.). This highlights an increasing trend across the pond for brands to be investing more in online advertising.
Getting to know your audience through brand campaigns
As many in the industry are beginning to realise, attracting more brand-driven sales online also means adapting metrics to reflect the needs of brand marketers. For this group, brand awareness is much more important than focusing on metrics more associated with direct response activity.
As brand marketers have a heritage in precisely defining customer segments for their brands, it is not surprising that when trying to optimise brand campaigns, audience targeting is an important factor, with two-thirds (66 per cent) of agencies overall claiming it is extremely important or very important. There is very little difference between the U.K. and the U.S. with scores of 66 per cent and 65 per cent respectively. However, U.S. agencies place even more value on conversion rate (68 per cent), which is the third most important factor for U.K. agencies (54 per cent), indicating that even for brand campaigns, measurable performance is important to highlight success. Brand engagement also ranks highly, with almost three-fifths of publishers deeming it extremely important or very important (58 per cent).
Bringing in the green
Securing sales with direct response campaigns
In contrast, direct response campaigns give a call to action. Therefore, these types of campaigns tend to be more geared towards achieving a higher conversion rate, which is on average the most important factor for a direct response campaign (75 per cent) across both markets. This is even more pronounced in the U.K., where the extrapolated figure is 83 per cent. Brand engagement is, perhaps logically, at the other end of the scale with only two-fifths of agencies overall placing extreme or high importance on this capability (39 per cent).
So in the rapidly changing nature of online media buying, where do agencies go when looking to secure their online inventory? U.K. and U.S. agencies tend to display similar patterns when it comes to buying direct -- overall, just under a third (30 per cent) of agencies purchased direct from websites in all or almost all of their campaigns, and a further third (32 per cent) used them frequently. Ad networks continue to be an important channel overall, with just over half (53 per cent) of agencies using them all the time or very often. However, there is greater reliance upon ad networks in the U.S., with 61 per cent using them all the time or frequently compared to 44 per cent here in the U.K.
When it comes to the use of new techniques and technologies, there is a stark contrast in usage between countries. In the U.K., where these have not been established as long as in the U.S., uptake is lower. While 31 per cent of U.K. agencies use retargeters all the time or frequently when buying inventory, for advertising exchanges it is less than a quarter (24 per cent) and this drops down to a mere 14 per cent for demand side platforms (DSPs). In the U.S., the figures are 38 per cent, 32 per cent and 22 per cent respectively.
This research illustrates that managing an ad campaign is no easy feat, and requires a constant assessment of the best way to optimise the campaign mixed with the right metrics to ensure clients' advertising needs are fulfilled. But when these elements are successfully combined and the metrics are correctly monitored, ad campaigns go on to deliver maximum value and profitability. It's a win-win outcome for everyone!
Denise Colella is CRO for Maxifier