Digital Advertising Effectiveness: How do I know if it’s working?

As brand managers are spending ever-larger shares of their advertising budgets on digital display advertising, they are asking more and more questions about whether these investments are acheiving the desired results. There are many ways to measure digital campaign results – and in real time and while the campaign is underway. By paying attention to how everything is working, a campaign can be optimized while it is underway, trading out poorly performing creative units and media placements for better performing ones. Here is a checklist to help brand managers work with their media and creative partners to plan and evaluate a digital campaign. (And by the way, it is important to have this conversation while a campaign is being planned; the media and creative agencies need to put tracking tags in place, and establish check-in dates, before the campaign starts to be able to provide the results during and after the campaign.)

There are 3 basic questions a brand manager wants to answer with any digital campaign: (1) how are the media choices I’ve made working, (2) how are the creative units working, and (3) is the campaign acheiving my business objectives?

1. Media effectiveness. Your media agency works with each site on which your advertising is running to understand the results of the buy. These interim results can alert you to changes needed, and will allow you to shift dollars to the sites that are performing best, and to heavy-up on creative units that are proving to be most effective.  Interim reports should include:

  • Impressions delivered to date – is each site delivering as expected, and at a rate that will acheive the desired reach and frequency?
  • Engagement / click-through rates – are site visitors responding as expected? Is the plan delivering the consumer actions (video views, clicks, in-ad engagement) at the rate anticipated in the plan?
  • Conversion rates – are consumers engaging in the action the brand is seeking, such as registering with the brand, making a purchase, downloading a document? How do the conversion rates vary between sites; does it makes sense to reallocate any parts of the media investment?

2. Creative effectiveness: by tagging each ad, the creative agency can determine if some creative executions are performing better than others, and can suggest changes to the ad rotations or to the units themselves to improve performance. Questions that could be evaluated include:

  • Which images and copy lines are more likely to drive click through and / or conversions?
  • If using video, which units result in the highest percentage of completed views?
  • Do certain creative versions work better on certain sites?
  • If there were different offers in the ad rotation, which offer is driving the largest reaction from the target?
  • If the campaign includes social sites, what units are providing the best rate of earned social impressions?

3. Campaign effectiveness: by using a third-party research partner (such as Dynamic Logic or Research Now), you can compare the effect your campaign has on exposed consumers with a control group. This sort of study can help to determine:

  • rates of ad recall
  • consumer measures: shifts in awareness, intent, purchase rates
  • brand measures: shifts in attitudes and usage
  • how the target consumer reacted vs. other consumers in the exposed group
  • changes in these measures over time (to assess the optimum frequency level)

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