Edward Kim is the CEO of SimpleReach, a provider of industry content performance measurement and distribution.
There are few people in our industry who are happy about the continued pervasiveness of click-through rates as the metric of a digital campaign’s success. And yet, no one can escape it. That is the power and lasting influence of industry standards, especially ones that are tied to a multibillion dollar economy.
As native advertising matures, industry standards are being created that, once settled, will again be virtually immovable. Let’s avoid making the same mistakes that got us here in the first place. Let’s avoid letting “engaged time” become the new metric of choice.
What exactly is wrong with CTR? If it were a robust, accurate measure of marketing success, there would be no issue. The problem stems from the fact that a single metric is necessarily limiting: One metric can never fully encompass the vast diversity of a marketer’s goals.
CTR made a lot more sense 20 years ago, when the industry’s measurement and attribution capabilities were less sophisticated, and there was relatively little available to measure. During that era, CTR served an important purpose as a proxy. If you couldn’t measure how your campaign drove consumers down a funnel or helped increase brand affinity, you could use CTR as a directional success metric.
Another challenge with rallying around a single metric is that once the industry chooses that metric, some will start “gaming” it. Once video marketers placed a higher premium on completed views, we saw the rise of gated content, views for in-game benefits and even views for free Wi-Fi, essentially incentivizing users to finish watching ads. Show me a metric, and I’ll show you someone gaming it.
I was on a panel where the moderator asked, “What is the single most important metric for native advertising success?” It’s a very tempting question to ask, and different voices are offering their answers. But by assuming there is a single success metric, we will find ourselves in exactly the same place we are in with CTR. Still, there are voices now pushing for “engaged time” to become the new defining metric for content marketing.
Let’s briefly consider the implications for marketers should this prevail.
The content that correlates with success isn’t always the most deeply read. If a marketer’s goal is to drive social sharing, for example, optimizing for time spent likely wouldn’t achieve the desired result. This is because, as the voices pushing for time-based metrics have acknowledged, engaged time doesn’t map closely to sharing. If an e-commerce brand is using content to drive sales or subscription sign-ups, then neither time nor sharing should be the key metric. Instead, the brand should focus on the only metric that really matters: conversions. Optimizing all campaigns for engaged time would severely limit the effectiveness of many.
One thing to understand about championing engaged time as the definitive metric of success is that it comes from the perspective of media companies. Engaged time is an important metric in assessing the health of a publisher’s audience, product and business. But as brands become publishers themselves, they need to remember that their business objectives are different, so their measure of success should differ as well.
Rather than relying on a single metric, I propose an alternative: Tell me your marketing goals, and I’ll tell you which metrics to focus on. Whether your goal is brand lift, conversation, engagement, sign-ups or purchases, we now have the data and tools needed to optimize each campaign for the specific metrics that matter most. Use them.
Digiday+ Research: Instagram wins over Facebook for role in brands’ holiday marketing
Brands differ on how they use each marketing channel during the holidays -- even when it comes to sibling social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, Digiday+ Research found.
How — and why — Candy Crush is in the midst of a 10th anniversary brand refresh
In the years since Activision Blizzard acquired the Swedish game studio King in 2016, employees at the gaming giant have started to internally refer to their company as “ABK” — that is, Activision Blizzard King. But the corporation’s recent financial reports indicate that “KAB” might be a more accurate abbreviation.
Independent agency Goat invests in influencer strategy for clients as it expands in the U.S.
Everyone is after influencers to up their marketing game. But the secret to success, Goat contends, is in viewing influencers as performance media and using data to deliver clients guaranteed outcomes.
SponsoredHow brands are measuring incremental performance on CTV
Connected TV is unique among other advertising channels because it combines linear television’s storytelling capabilities with digital marketing’s targeting and measurement. As more marketers leverage CTV advertisements to reach relevant and engaged audiences, they also want to understand the real value they are generating with their investment. Incrementality reporting and measurement allow advertisers to measure […]
Marketers bring Web3 to the FIFA World Cup with augmented reality, NFTs and virtual worlds
The month-long tournament, which begins this weekend, will be the first World Cup since it took place in Russia in 2018 long before “Web3” entered the global lexicon. Now, official and non-official sponsors are hoping to harness the hype with a range of NFTs, virtual worlds, augmented reality tools and other trendy tech.
U-Haul diversifies its social strategy to tell people it’s more than moving trucks
In recent years, U-Haul's in-house agency has been working to "better leverage social media for brand loyalty."