Yet Another Study Downgrades Importance of Click Through
comScore and Pretarget have released results of an online advertising study which found ad viewability and hover time are more strongly correlated with conversions (defined as purchases and requests for information) than clicks or total impressions.
"Your ad being seen matters more than your ad being clicked - if you have a back-end conversion metric," said Pretarget Founder Keith Pieper. "After all, what good is an ad that can't be seen? It's intuitive that an ad must be seen to make an impact, and it's even more intuitive than someone hovering and engaging with an ad might convert, even absent a click."
To arrive at these initial findings, Pretarget analyzed 263 million impressions over nine months across 18 advertisers in numerous verticals. Pretarget used comScore validated Campaign Essentials (vCE) to collect viewability and hover data and a DSP to collect click and cookie-based conversion data. Pretarget then performed a Pearson correlation analysis of the data, including gross impressions, "views" (75 percent of ad within screen, either above the fold or after scrolling)*, time in-view, hover/engagements and total hover/engagement time, clicks and conversions.
Traditional display ad impression measurement and reporting simply verifies the number of ads that were sent by an ad server to a user's browser. For a variety of reasons, this way of counting impressions does not ensure that the ad ever rendered within a browser. In addition, ads can load below the fold (requiring a user to scroll down), which means that most users will probably never see the ad unless they scroll down. In the worst cases, some ads load within 1x1 pixels and therefore never render as viewable impressions.
The research findings indicate that the traditional way of buying mass impressions and hoping for conversions (aka "spray and pray") is not the most effective approach. The results showed that ad hover/interaction (correlation = 0.49) and viewable impressions (correlation = 0.35) had highest correlation with conversion, while gross impressions (correlation = 0.17) was significantly lower.
Perhaps most interestingly, clicks (correlation = 0.01) had the lowest correlation with conversion, far under-performing all other metrics analyzed in the study. These findings suggest that advertisers and media planners ought to break their addiction to clicks and instead look to more meaningful metrics for evaluating campaign performance.
"The Pretarget study helps illuminate several critically important findings for the digital advertising community," said Kirby Winfield, SVP of Corporate Development, comScore. "First, it once again demonstrates the perils of relying on click-throughs for measuring the performance of display ad campaigns, with this metric showing virtually zero correlation with total conversions. Secondly, it highlights why the viewable impression - which is now easily measurable through vCE - is significantly more meaningful than the unvalidated impression. Finally, this study shows why other non-click metrics of engagement, such as interaction or hovering, may be much more important in evaluating campaign performance than the click ever was. It's time to start measuring the impact of campaigns using metrics that really matter, not just the ones that are most easily measured."
*The Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) defines "in-view" as 50%+ of the pixels of an ad being visible in the browser, and comScore vCE adheres to this definition for its typical definition of "in-view". The Pretarget studies, however, used a more conservative in-view requirement of 75% visibility.