Click-through rates are not a marketing or business objective.

In a recent article by Gavin O’Malley, Pre-Roll Ads Get More Bang For The Buck Than In-Banner, Study Finds, pre-roll ads are touted as being 8-25 times more effective than in-banner ads. The study was based on new data from Web video company BBE, where over 2 billion impressions and virtually all of the online video ad campaigns ran on BBE’s network in 2008.

As stated in the article, “BBE’s goal was to find out which format brought advertisers the most bang for their buck, based on the most effective measurement the company has — click-through rates.“ While we can commend BBE for conducting research and collecting data around the different online video formats, it is disappointing to see CTRs still getting so much attention.

CTR is an old world reach metric that ignores the measurability of interactive channels and does not align with marketer’s objectives. Better to use efficiency metrics like cost per desired action or return on marketing objectives (ROMO) and focus on customer metrics like change in brand perception, retention or CLV that better align with business objectives. Yes, we still need to measure CTRs, but this data should only be used in combination with other metrics to deliver the valuable insight marketers need to make informed decisions.

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Online measurement needs a cross-channel upgrade.

With a marketing seat at the C-level table and a recession still dominating the headlines, the focus on accountability in marketing is greater than ever before. Consumers are adding new online activities, like video and Twitter, while continuing established online and offline activities throughout their purchase paths.

While marketers have done a good job by adding these new channels to their marketing mix, they have not successfully integrated execution or measurement across these channels. The blessing and curse of the Internet is the ease of measuring and tracking things like impressions, click-throughs, and activity. As marketers have relied on what is easily measurable, they have often ignored metrics that align with their objectives and provide actionable insight in supporting business decisions.

Improving marketing measurement effectiveness is a never-ending journey, but marketers can take some manageable steps to get started:

  • Map business goals to campaign objectives and specific tactics. The first step in any marketing process should be aligning business goals to marketing objectives, selecting focused tactics to accomplish that objective, and measuring the results. For example, an organization’s strategic goal of strengthening their brand across key segments can draw support from various functional teams. Marketers can strictly define their contribution and objective to increase awareness by five percent for a youth segment. With an understanding of key segment’s behaviors, and attitudes, marketers can create relevant social marketing campaigns designed to drive awareness for their brand or product.
  • Identify the metrics that matter and the existing data gaps. Each new marketing channel ads its own series of new metrics, for example social marketing introduced metrics like time interactions, spread of content, velocity, number of friends, posts, etc. Only with clearly defined campaign objectives, can marketers sift through the list of things to measure and identify the metrics that measure the business success of campaign tactics. To accurately measure change in unaided and aided awareness for your brand or product marketers utilize brand surveys or professional brand monitoring services from firms like Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony. Identifying the data gaps that exist, like measuring lift in brand awareness, is like acknowledging there is a problem. It’s the first but huge step towards recovery.
  • Conduct experiments to verify assumptions and fill data gaps. Inevitably the metrics that matter are not easily measurable or readily available. After identifying existing data gaps marketers can create a simple 2X2 matrix to compare the value of the data with the cost of obtaining to help prioritize data gaps and pick the low hanging fruit or build these costs into future campaigns. Also consider commercializing this matrix to identify latent needs in other functional teams and help build the business case for more marketing measurement investment. To temporarily fill these inevitable data gaps marketers can obtain data through an existing source in another functional team, for example PR or market research teams may have ongoing brand tracking studies. It may also be worthwhile to understand if there is a company wide accepted correlation between the data you have, like impressions or number of branded searches, and the data you need.

Five Online Trends Marketers Should Focus On.

With almost half of 2009 and hopefully the worst of the economy behind us, its time to focus on the online trends that matter. Put your Facebook and Twitter strategy aside and focus on:

  • Interactivity: Organizations need to really internalize what it means to be interactive and leverage the specific strengths of interactive channels for all marketing programs and consumer touch points. Interactive marketers need to push best practices across the entire organization to ensure a positive experience for consumers changing behaviors and expectations.
  • Measurement: Consumers increasing cross-channel behavior will force marketers to improve their measurement capabilities. Consumers move across a variety of online and offline channels throughout their purchase process. In order to accurately determine the effectiveness of marketing spend, influence future investment or identify which programs to cut, measurement needs a cross-cannel upgrade.
  • Consolidation: With the proliferation of marketing channels, organizations have acquired a variety of separate vendor/agency relationships for their search, email, social and mobile marketing efforts. Marketers need to tear down the internal and external walls separating channels to reduce the number of profit centers and infighting, create a media neutral approach and improve cross-channel integration.
  • Governance: The talk in 2008 was that marketing’s needed to release control of their brands, that consumers now owned the brands and there was nothing you could do about it. It is exactly because of that shift in control that marketers need to better manage brand communications through the issuance of governance policies and procedures for employees and increased vigilance through brand monitoring tools and technologies.
  • Analytics: For years now marketers have been collecting data through CRM systems, web analytics platforms, experiential marketing campaigns, etc. Marketers now need to integrate disparate data sources from around the organization and enhance their analytical capabilities to help improve targeting, enhance consumer insights and promote a more comprehensive view of the customer.