Measuring the real impact of display advertising

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googleHypothesis:

Having maxed out the search budget for a client, I reluctantly decided to try out a small display network test. My expectation was that the overall Cost per Acquisition/Order would be much higher than “search” but the overall blended online cost per acquisition would be within the realm of “acceptable”.

Results

In order to test on a small budget, I decided to use the Google display network as I would not have to face any restrictions regarding a minimum monthly spend.

As I expected, the resulting cost/order as measured by conventional means (orders from customers that clicked on a display ad and completed an online purchase) was higher than orders acquired via the search channel. In fact the cost per order from the display channel was approximately twice the cost per order from the “search” channel.

However, what I found to be of greatest value is a metric called “View-thru-Conversion” measures. Based on this measurement scale, the cost per conversion was less than one-fourth of the cost per conversion from the “search” channel. I agree that this is not an apples to apples comparison and that if the same approach was used for “search”, the effective cost per order for “search” would likely be lower too.

I believe that this metric has the potential to change how jaded advertisers and clients look at display advertising as an effective medium of online advertising.

Why the “View-thru-Conversion” makes sense?

The View-thru-Conversion metric measures conversions within a 30 day period of a display ad impression.

With the benefit of hindsight, this metric makes perfect sense.  As online customers ourselves, I am sure many a time we have opened another browser window to visit an advertisers web site rather than click on a banner and have our current online activity interrupted.

To me this seems to be the way all display advertising results should be reported. Disparaging display advertising based on the low CTR rates is mis-leading.

Conclusion

Google seems to have applied that extra thought into how it reports results for advertisers. For advertisers and agencies, I think this represents a new beginning in terms of measuring results. Vendors that look beyond the attribution of the last click stand a better chance of showing successful test results and winning and retaining clients in this tough economic environment.

It would be interesting to see a continuum of the “View-thru-Conversion” concept i.e. what does it take to convert a customer – x impressions, y clicks, and throw in z tv ads etc and you have a sense of how big the opportunity in the measurement space really is.

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