Feed a user clickbait and their innocent curiosity will tempt them to bite. Present a clickaholic marketeer the CTR of their clickbait activity and they will see it as a great success, writes The Kite Factory’s Maria Tudor.
For the fourth consecutive year, IAB UK, together with the digital marketing industry, pledge to abolish the use of CTR as measurement of campaign effectiveness. The controversy surrounding CTR reporting is not new, however it has become ever more important in the post-pandemic, soon-to-be cookie-less digital space. On National Anti-Click-Through Rate Day, 14 February 2022, we aim to demonstrate that CTR isn’t a measure for campaign impact and effectiveness. In fact, there is virtually no correlation at all. In doing so, we wish to establish an all-time low CTR benchmark on our blog. We hope no one is reading, but since you’ve already driven our CTR up, read carefully.
The 4 psychological Cs of our love for CTR
If we look at our obsession for CTR from a purely psychological perspective, it becomes obvious why we can’t break away from this toxic love affair. Taking a step back, I’ve realised that the incorporation of CTR metrics in my client work satisfies four key psychological needs:
- Control: In the realm of performance marketing, CTR is arguably the metric that we, the media planner buyers, have control over. CTR can be manipulated with shrewd media planning and campaign setup however performance KPIs, such as CPA and ROI are a result of product, price, site user experience, competitor activity and so much more out of the planners’ control.
- Comfort: CTR is a very predictable metric, likely to degrade with time as saturation sets in. Not only is its volatility negligible, but easily justifiable. As a result, it makes media planning a more exact science than it actually is. CTR is perhaps the lowest risk metric to forecast against and its predictable progression gives us peace of mind that our campaign will turn out as intended. It’s our media safety blanket.
- Confidence: Given the sense of control and comfort aforementioned, our confidence as capable media professionals flourishes. We take pride in hitting our (CTR) targets because it’s a form of self-gratification that in turn consolidates the value we add to the business. It’s also why CTR is known as a vanity metric.
- Celebrity status: CTR is arguably the most widespread and applicable metric in digital media. In paid media alone, it sits at the heart of our strategies for almost every channel and campaign objective – unfairly so! Clients put it on a pedestal, media buyers shout about it on every status call, and media owner reps say theirs is the highest. Considering its unjustified omnipresence, it would be rude to exclude this famous-for-being-famous, Kardashian-esque metric from media plans and reports!
(Sorry, I had to say this word, I work in marketing).
Despite our human faults, CTR is not an intrinsically ‘bad’ metric. It is its misuse that makes it problematic. Some may say that it should not be mentioned at all outside of the scope of traffic driving campaigns, but I think it can add value when paired with other KPIs. For example, making creative recommendations for a conversion campaign using both CTR and CPA can offer a second layer of understanding by placing the ad on a continuum from engagement (CTR) to conversion (CPA). Consequently, analysing CTR performance in relation to the campaign objective enables media buyers to gain perspective as opposed to tunnel vision. Every metric, when presented in isolation as the sole explanation for campaign performance, raises questions of correctitude.
Don’t be a clickhead: learn to measure in the post-pandemic era
Consumer behaviour is constantly changing and breaking from the pre-pandemic mould. Moreover, media inflation is at its highest in a long time, ensuring that comparisons with 2019, 2020 and even 2021 become unreliable. As such, many refer to 2022 as ground 0, when new trends form and benchmarks are adapted to the ‘new normal’. Here are the five key areas as I see them:
- Digital strategists are banging the drum for new operational frameworks and technology rich with first-party data to boost digital effectiveness in 2022.
- IAB UK’s measurement toolkit highlights that planning should not be an afterthought. Campaign objectives and KPIs ought to be defined ahead of activation.
- There needs to be greater focus on the “long-term” as Ben Foster, Digital Managing Partner at The Kite Factory, stresses the need to end short-termist media planning in 2022 (his paper available here).
- The integration of multiple tools, such as programmatic DSPs, GDPR-friendly audience builders and fully automated reporting dashboards, further facilitates this thinking as they enable us to see performance with different spectacles.
- Lastly, long-term measurement is a continuous process, marked by repeated test-learn-improve cycles. Only by keeping our eyes on the sky and our feet on the ground can we accurately decide the best route forward for our clients.
Hint – there is no growth in CTR.