Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Brand’s ad click obsession has led to metrics blindness in programmatic

By Tobias Knutsson, CEO, Adverty

When it comes to digital marketing, branding and performance advertising sit in silos, each with their own objectives, metrics, budgets and, often, teams. While both have unique strengths, with one focused on building long-term brand recognition and the other delivering short term growth, in programmatic, there’s only one metric that rules supreme for measuring success – the click. And it’s this obsession with the click that is holding back programmatic’s potential.   

The promise of digital has always been that it’s the most measurable medium. Yet despite the wealth of metrics, measurement still comes down to a single dominant one. But in this increasingly complex, omnichannel-focused, programmatically-driven world, user journeys have become more sophisticated, and distilling success to one metric is damaging campaign effectiveness. Why? Because it fails to measure success correctly, distorts channel investment decisions and ignores branding’s importance in delivering performance.  

Central to effective marketing is the recognition that each advertising message doesn’t exist in isolation. There’s a relationship between each one. Spending in one media influences performance in another, with money invested in top-of-the-funnel messaging driving behaviour lower down. Attributing success to one performance metric ignores this crucial inter-relationship between branding and direct response activity, but understanding this is critical to evolve programmatic. 

All marketing is performance marketing

While the thinking is the only way to drive business performance is through direct response marketing, the reality is this is harvesting the equity in the brand: it’s this brand element that supports and boosts performance marketing. To measure actual campaign effectiveness, it’s critical to measure every aspect that impacts performance, which requires multiple metrics to be reported. And while direct response campaigns are fundamental to driving growth, acquisition teams increasingly realise branding plays a vital role in the overall strategy. Any successful marketing campaign must weave in branding to drive better performance.

Surprisingly though, in an industry willing to accept low click-through rates, there seems little appetite to make crucial changes to how campaigns are measured to improve overall performance.  

The industry needs to take a leaf from out-of-home and in-gaming advertising when it comes to the metrics it uses. Both channels can be traded programmatically, are targetable and measurable. However, neither offers a direct return path for advertising, as is possible with cookies. This means measuring clicks is irrelevant, and they use other metrics to highlight success. In essence, both environments are primarily for brand-building, but they play a critical role in influencing purchasing behaviours. 

By limiting metrics, we are limiting campaign effectiveness

While it’s essential advertisers constantly evolve their marketing strategies by testing new advertising environments, programmatic’s obsession with the click is stifling this.  Take in-game advertising. This allows players to be exposed to brand messages during gameplay – usually up to several minutes – but it’s impossible to click on them. The result? Campaign reporting highlights the game delivered zero clicks, so it is optimised out,, and excluded from future campaigns. 

The true value branding brings to campaign performance can only be recognised by incorporating multiple metrics – direct response and branding – into reporting. Yet, the programmatic infrastructure doesn’t support this, and without it, advertisers will continue to miss out on using critical growth channels to reach their target audiences.  

And yet, it’s these branding environments, that don’t rely on algorithms and clicks, that will become an increasingly important part of a brand’s media plan in the future. With changes to Apple’s IDFA identifier and the eventual death of third-party cookies, the traditional ways of measuring success are becoming increasingly challenging. New approaches are needed, and by evolving programmatic to incorporate essential branding metrics, measurement can be future-proofed.       

What we need is a rethink around programmatic. While technology is opening up new opportunities for brands to get their messages seen, campaigns measurement in programmatic fails to recognise the positive influence these have on performance. This is to the detriment of advertisers who fail to take advantage of emerging advertising environments to influence their target audiences. And all because they don’t back out to a click. Only by understanding the relationship between brand and performance and extending the metrics available in programmatic can advertisers truly determine success and understand branding’s role in delivering this.