in Data & Insights

Why Brands Should Stop Optimizing Toward CTR

For a brand advertiser, the goal of an advertising campaign is to increase awareness of the brand among the target demographic. While this sounds fairly simple, a concept like “brand awareness” has always been difficult to measure.

To measure and optimize their campaigns, brand advertisers are using various metrics and vendors. Many turn to brand surveys that, while popular, are often cumbersome and expensive. Others are beginning to measure in-target delivery using a campaign audience validation service like Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings™. These reports indicate how many campaign impressions were delivered to their intended audience. Still, because of the ambiguous nature of measuring brand awareness, many online advertisers fall back on click-through rate (CTR) because it’s easy to measure and understand.

We have found that optimizing for CTR is a losing proposition and published our findings in a recent whitepaper. CTR doesn’t work for any campaign, because people who click on ads have a consistent, distinct profile: they are either under 18 or over 50 with a household income of less than $50K. Chances are, this “clicker” demographic is not any advertiser’s target audience.

Delivering Targeted Audiences

We recently saw this dynamic play out for a brand awareness campaign that was initially optimized for in-target demographic delivery and then shifted to focus on clicks.

To promote its newest product, a national CPG brand was looking to reach its target audience of women 18-34 within a brand-appropriate environment. The advertiser ran its campaign across a premium women’s lifestyle network and used Quantcast Demographics to reach its target audience. Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings was used to validate the in-target delivery of women 18-34.

Surprising Results

Using its web-wide visibility and audience modeling against each U.S. Internet user, Quantcast was able to deliver exceptional targeting accuracy for the campaign: a 69% overall lift in audience composition for women 18-34.

Once the advertiser chose to optimize the campaign for CTR, however, the audience composition of women 18-34 tumbled 36%.** This means that only 38% of the campaign impressions were delivered to the brand’s target audience of women 18-34, according to Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings.

As a result, more impressions were delivered to “clickers” – who are either very young or older with a low household income This clicker audience looks nothing like the CPG brand’s target audience.

Moving Beyond Clicks

Simply put, you get what you optimize for. While CTR may seem like an intuitive way to measure brand awareness, optimizing a campaign based on clicks means you’re optimizing away from your target audience. As evidenced by the results above, optimizing toward any metric that is not aligned with your target customer means your budgets are wasted on advertising to the wrong audience.

At Quantcast we want to ensure that brand advertisers are getting the best value for their ad spend. Brand advertisers want to reach their target audience, so a more optimal way to measure brand awareness is by measuring in-target delivery – not clicks. Third-party audience validation services can help advertisers understand whether their campaign message was served to their target audience. When combined with viewability metrics, in-target delivery becomes the Holy Grail that all brand advertisers should seek from their display campaigns.

Posted by Jag Duggal, Senior Vice President, Product Management
*Source: Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, Benchmark Report, Q4 2012
**Source: Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, April 2013