The increasingly data-driven, programmatic nature of today's media and advertising landscape raises many questions, but there are a couple in particular that continue to haunt us: Why, when we have such massive amounts of data available, does measurement lag so far behind? Why do individual, isolated metrics serve as the final answer for success or catalysts for action? For example, click-through rates, or CTRs, continue to be the default metric for determining advertising effectiveness for many marketers, regardless of device and campaign objectives. And brand studies are often the "end" discussion on campaign performance without further exploration into the "why."
By now we're all aware of the challenges posed by mobile advertising—from the recent growth in mobile ad blocking to the complication of addressing consumers across differing operating systems, mobile web and apps, and more. In order for brands to be successful, they not only need tools to help them navigate the fragmented mobile ecosystem, but also a way to determine the effectiveness of their mobile campaigns in reaching the consumers—the human beings—on the other side of those devices.
These challenges lead many marketers to default to familiar measurements such as CTR, which fall drastically short when it comes to mobile and taking a more human approach to measurement.
Toward an Effective Measure of Mobile Success
We've been saying it for years, but the fact remains that our industry still needs a push to look beyond primitive metrics such as CTR to determine ad effectiveness. Instead, we need to look at advertising performance from a basic, human approach. We've seen steps taken in the right direction with tools that help ensure viewability and limit fraud, but we've also seen unsuccessful attempts to correlate viewability and ad effectiveness.
Here, we've identified topics that marketers should consider in order to connect the dots between viewability and successful brand metrics—beginning with the basic need for the ad to load.
1. Did the ad load to the correct audience?
Viewability must be the first step in measuring advertising. We can't measure ads if they never load. And we can't count them if they weren't delivered to an actual human (vs. bots)—which is why viewability is a universal concern across digital media. Whether an ad loaded, and if it was delivered to the intended target in a brand-safe environment, is easy enough to determine with data from viewability vendors such as Moat, comScore, Nielsen, etc. Viewability should not be a proxy for ad effectiveness, however. We must remember that viewability measures the opportunity for an ad to be seen; it doesn't measure behavioral or attitudinal changes.
2. Did the user actually see the ad?
Once we know an ad loaded, and the right audience had the opportunity to see it, we still need to determine if the user actually saw it. Mobile devices are highly task-oriented—from playing games, to catching up on news, to watching videos. Human eye fixation must go beyond peripheral vision when dealing with mobile. Neuroscience firms such as Media Science that include eye tracking in their services can measure eye movement, fixation and pupil dilation on a moment-by-moment basis to isolate the presence of a variable (i.e., a mobile ad). And, as most eye-tracking measurement providers can tell you, once a successfully loaded ad attracts visual attention, we still have to evaluate frequency and duration. How many times did a user look at the ad? For how long?
3. Did the ad register with the user?
It's easy for features such as animations and frame builds to attract visual attention—even more so when dealing with the limited real estate of mobile device screens. Any movement naturally can attract the human eye, but seeing an ad doesn't necessarily indicate comprehension. It should come as no surprise that ensuring ads register in users' minds is a vital final step in achieving successful ad recall and other ad-related brand metrics, as measured by brand study vendors such as Millward Brown Digital and Research Now.
It's impossible to remember an ad if it didn't load, if you didn't see it, or if it didn't register in your brain.
4. Did the ad have an impact?
It may seem like common sense, but we must address the question of whether an ad actually impacted a user behaviorally or attitudinally. Surveys and CTR have long been the go-to solutions to measure impact, so much so that these tools are used regularly far beyond their intended purpose. We shouldn't survey for brand awareness lift on an established brand such as Coca-Cola, nor should we use CTR as the KPI for a branding campaign. In these days of neuroscience and big data, we have opportunities to look for change beyond traditional measures. Neuroscience is giving us the ability to measure acceptance of or annoyance with ads and cross-media impact through biometric testing. Sales data and store traffic tracking allow us to tie lower-funnel behaviors back to ad exposure.
5. Why did it perform the way it did?
The ad loaded, users saw it, but performance (brand lift, sales lift, etc.) was low. Many would stop at that point without asking why. Before throwing in the towel and deeming the campaign a failure, we should take a shot at evaluating other components that may have played a role, such as creative, audiences, seasonality, etc. For example, in the case of ad/brand recall, while many creative principles can be carried over to mobile (clutter, colors, etc.), there are several that are unique to this screen. We're dealing with very limited visual real estate and limited user attention spans. Taking advantage of these factors by incorporating scaled, prominent branding and messaging is vital. A rotating ad with animations may attract a user's eye naturally with movement, but that person won't remember the brand if it's only displayed on the third frame build, nine seconds into the ad load. The result? Minimal to no impact on ad/brand recognition and recall.
Today we have the ability to be more creative and innovative with our measurement. Viewability, eye tracking, brand studies, creative testing—obviously the combination of all these solutions isn't scalable, but the intention isn't to provide a solution for all.
Our objective is to start to change how the industry thinks about ad performance on mobile rather than continuing to rely on inadequate legacy metrics or making decisions based on findings from research that doesn't align with objectives. No one understands everything 100%, but as an industry it remains important to explore, educate and test beyond our comfort zones. Advertisers, publishers and consumers alike will benefit in the end.
About the Author
AJ Mathew is VP-research at Kargo, responsible for driving Kargo's vision to create cohesive insights and informing the development of new advertising effectiveness products. Mr. Mathew is charged with leading a cross-functional team to design and implement high-quality, credible and scientific custom research around products, user experience testing, audience insights, market intelligence, advertising effectiveness and media measurement, among other topics.
Previously, Mr. Mathew helped build Apple's first Research & Insights department for media and services, focused on performance measurement, product research, ad research, media measurement, audience insights and market intelligence. He also held key research positions at Yahoo!, Bloomberg Businessweek and WebMD.
About the Sponsor
Kargo is the leader in mobile brand advertising. Bringing together creativity, technology and quality, Kargo empowers advertisers to build connections with consumers on the most important screen today—mobile. Our high-end editorial alliance of world-class publisher partners, proprietary advertising automation technology and an award-winning creative studio enables brands and agencies to reach eight out of 10 smartphone users in the U.S. with memorable, measurable mobile ad experiences. In 2015, Kargo was named to Crain's New York Business' Fast 50 and the Inc. 500. Kargo employs more than 200 people across New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and London.