The cost of chasing the biggest, richest and shiniest new toys

A recent article by Laurie Sullivan, Video In Rich Media Ads More Likely To Lead Customers To Purchase, sites a DoubleClick benchmark study that suggests rich media ad formats that contain video “overwhelmingly” outperform other types of creative media ad, such as images and simple animation Flash. Not surprisingly, the pioneers in every medium get the attention and benefit of impressed consumers and often times mainstream news coverage of their advanced techniques. However, as more marketers plow money into video ad formats, consumers will quickly become de-sensitized to them, performance will level out and marketers will be left chasing the next latest trend.

This is not to say that marketers should not be experimenting. Experimentation is vital, especially with the rapid growth and adoption of new technologies, and all marketers should have a portion of their budget designated to test and trial these new techniques, formats and technologies. And it should go without saying that this should all be evaluated in the context of your brand positioning. If you claim to be hip, innovative and technically savvy this ups the ante for your marketing experimentation requirements.

However, I think there is a greater danger than missing out on the latest format or technology promising .147% higher CTRs. That is the switching cost of moving on to a new technique before you have integrated and optimized existing techniques in the media-mix. And ad format is only one piece of the equation for online advertisers who should also be evaluating how creative, placement, targeting and timing are affecting their ROMO. In addition, marketers should be tracking post-click behavior or changing brand attitudes to understand the longer term and cross-channel affects of their campaigns.

I would argue that becoming more efficient in existing techniques through experimentation and experience will drive better results to the bottom line than chasing the newest, biggest and richest ad formats around.

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.