Setting Expectations

I was working on a rich media advertising campaign a few years ago that focused on allowing consumers to print the advertiser’s full-color brochure simply by clicking a button on the ad. I was personally pleased with the ad’s tight focus and simplicity. Here was a way to get collateral into potential customers’ hands without paying for printing costs — a good deal for everyone.

A week or so after the campaign started, I logged into the analytics back end and was thrilled to see over 11 percent of all impressions were resulting in clicks on the print button! This was unprecedented and certainly good news. Feeling just a bit smug, I called the client.

“Have you seen the results for the campaign?” I asked her.

“Yes, we have, and we’re not happy about it.”

I was stunned. Whatever smugness I had quickly melted away.

“An 11 percent click rate is very, very good,” I explained, hoping she was unaware of the obvious.

“Maybe so,” she countered, “but the ad is only getting a 0.1 percent click-through rate, and that’s unacceptable!”

The client went on to tell me they’d be pulling the ad and were very disappointed with our technology.

After I hung up, it occurred to me this particular ad was a shining example of a phenomenal success and a dismal failure, all at the same time. It also taught me that managing the client’s expectations is a huge part of the advertising experience.

While designing the ad, I made certain all messaging, functionality, and benefits pointed to clicking on the print button. I didn’t think about click-through at all, although I added that functionality as a default. My philosophy then, as now, is rich media ads have a huge benefit over ads that focus on driving traffic, so why not take advantage of those benefits?

Real advertising success is based on how effectively the ad can get a benefit message from the ad space into the consumer’s head. Though driving traffic can be an effective way to get benefit messaging to consumers, the approach is hindered by reality: the vast majority of users just don’t click on online ads.

The nature of interactive ads makes them perfect for effective, multipoint marketing campaigns. When I approach a new rich media campaign, I ask, “What criteria will be used to measure this ad’s effectiveness?”

If the client’s expectation is a high CTR (define) is the be all, end all, I ask them why they want to drive traffic to the site. This is often met with stunned silence, but it does start a discussion on the value of driving traffic.

With the question, “What is it you want consumers to learn/understand/do when they arrive at your site?” I’m generally able to get to the real marketing goal. The beauty of interactive rich media ad formats is most tasks that can be accomplished by driving traffic to a site can also be accomplished in the interactive ad space. Printing brochures, placing orders, watching video, interactive rich media advertising can accomplish all these, without requiring a click-through. Oh, and if a click-through is still really important to the advertiser, an interactive ad can provide that, too.

Instead of looking at CTR as a metric used to determine campaign success, here are a few suggestions for campaign goals that may be more in line with real consumer behaviors and offer a greater indication of campaign success:

  • Branding effectiveness. One of the most difficult things to measure online is the ad’s effectiveness as a branding tool. It’s out there. People are most likely seeing it. But if they don’t click, how can you know how effective it is? Even if only half a percent of total ad impressions result in a click-through, you still don’t have a good indication of how effective the ad is as a branding tool.

    By measuring interactivity (tagged items such as buttons and fields in an ad), advertisers can get a better idea of the number of people who saw the ad but didn’t click. Though it’s not an exact measure, knowing 23 percent of the impressions resulted in a consumer poking around in the ad is a much better indicator of branding effectiveness than the 0.5 percent who clicked on it.

  • Focused marketing goals. Ask yourself why it might be important for consumers to visit your site. Generally, a path of exploration can be followed. But can a similar path be created with a microsite or banner ad? Rich media ads can be measured in a variety of ways. By structuring ads to perform specific tasks, advertisers can closely measure how effectively the ad accomplishes those tasks.
  • Metrics that tell a unique story. The problem with most click-through ads is they serve merely as a target for a click-through. Interactive ads can tag and track separate elements, so measuring these interactions provides a strong indication of consumer needs and desires.

    Say a car manufacturer’s ad gave consumers the option to print spec sheets for its new car line. Apart from providing consumers with added value, the advertiser could also track and measure interest levels for each model.

The quality of the ad, media buy and focus on demographics counts toward the success of any campaign. Creating interactive ads that focus on a set task is halfway to success. In a few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at some interactive campaigns that show tremendous numbers against their standard, traffic-driven cousins.

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