Not all impressions are created equal

Links are at the heart of the internet so it’s no surprise that digital marketers primarily focus on clicks. Clicks are comfortable—especially for direct response marketers who grew up in direct mail, telesales, etc.—despite new devices, new content formats, and new consumer behaviors. Earlier today, Chartbeat’s Tony Haile posted about the challenges of moving beyond click measurement:

The click’s natural dominance built huge companies like Google and promised a whole new world for advertising where ads could be directly tied to consumer action… In 20 years, everything else about the web has been transformed, but the click remains unchanged, we live on the click web. But something is happening to the click web. Spurred by new technology and plummeting click-through rates, what happens between the clicks is becoming increasingly important and the media world is scrambling to adapt… It’s no longer just your clicks they want, it’s your time and attention. Welcome to the Attention Web.

At the core of Tony’s Attention Web is quality versus quantity. It’s an issue which affects both publishers and advertisers and requires a fundamental rethink of digital measurement techniques:

Valuing advertising on time and attention means that publishers of great content can charge more for their ads than those who create link bait. If the amount of money you can charge is directly correlated with the quality of content on the page, then media sites are financially incentivized to create better quality content. In the seeds of the Attention Web we might finally have found a sustainable business model for quality on the web.

Easier said than done but there’s a wealth of innovative and practical research being done to solve core issues like viewability and incremental value. To learn more about the basics:

  • Brand recall versus engaged time: Chartbeat research found +25% increase in brand recall for the cohort exposed to 15 or more seconds of advertising.
  • The importance of being seen: Google research found ad CTR increases in proportion to viewable time. For example, below-the-fold ads with 1+ second viewable time have 198% higher CTR than the average below-the-fold ad.

In practice, understanding the incremental value of marketing campaigns—search, display, television, social, radio, and other channels—is complex and messy. By only looking at historical data, media mix models are inherently biased (i.e. you don’t know what you’ve never tried). Depending on your needs, there are simple approaches—like using average weekly brand searches to measure out-of-home—or more complex but robust ones:

And if you’re still reading, here are some more papers that dive into incremental value, branding, and related topics: