Everyone can remember that iconic moment from the Brady Bunch when Jan just can’t stand to be in Marcia’s shadow any longer—the comparison is just too much. And why should Jan be compared to Marcia? Jan is her own person, as Carol Brady points out, and should not be compared to her older, popular sister. If you’re still following along this outdated pop-culture metaphor, prepare yourself for an even clunkier segue to the actual topic of this blog post. You need to stop evaluating your display campaigns with the same metrics that you use to determine efficiency in SEM. That’s right I said it.
I know that, as an advertiser, you need to prove that your marketing channels are efficient and productive—completely understandable. You don’t want to be that marketer that’s known for shoveling boat loads of budget into a flaming dumpster fire (I’m looking at you, every Cleveland sports franchise ever). I also know that it’s a bit “out there” to suggest that we throw out all traditional metrics that we’ve used to measure digital marketing to date. That’s why I’m suggesting that we choose existing metrics that make sense in the context of display advertising.
If at this point you’re skeptical of what I’m proposing, then I commend you. I will acknowledge the critics of this stance, which are probably out there, by admitting that my belief is, essentially, asking permission to cherry-pick metrics. I won’t deny this, but I would ask you this question: does it make sense to evaluate vastly different channels within the same framework because that’s the way we’ve done it in the past, and that’s the context which we understand it?
Frankly, this school of thought has been a large driver of what makes display marketing inaccessible, unattractive and questionable to a lot of marketers. Yes reader, I’m about to bring up the dreaded F-word. Yes, I know you’re probably tired about hearing about it. Yes, I’m talking about fraud.
Search campaigns work of a CPC model—you don’t get billed for impressions. Thus, the importance of clicks becomes infinitely more important, as it determines how much you’re paying for media, which will ultimately affect your KPIs and bottom line. Conversely, your display campaign will be working on a CPM or a dCPM more often than not. Some ad networks do operate off of a CPC model like search, but therein lies the problem. Digital marketers emphasize clicks, but clicks don’t affect the bottom line of most display campaigns. Moreover, clicks, as a metric, are susceptible to inflation due to fraud or accidental clicks which makes it an unreliable barometer of performance. If it doesn’t give insight into performance, and it doesn’t affect your bottom line, what purpose does it really serve?
In my own opinion, the real heart of the issue is a lack of willingness to innovate or a fear of bucking the conventionally held beliefs in attribution and valuation. What needs to happen for the industry in general is a departure from click based valuation for the purpose of developing a new, more sophisticated attribution model for multichannel programs. Additionally, advertisers need to liberate themselves from click metric valuation and optimize toward human actions—be it a transaction or any other engagement.
If there’s one thing I would want you, the reader, to take away from this article, it would be that if you want to run a successful display program you need to evaluate your program apart from non-relevant metrics and benchmarks. By doing so, you’ll maximize your current ad budget, and you’ll empower yourself to recognize the true value of your display campaigns.