Don’t Bother With Digital Display If Using Last Click Attribution

By: Jay Friedman, COO of Goodway Group In our book 30 Days to Paid Digital Media Expertise we talk about the paid digital media pyramid. Aside from display re-targeting, display (mobile or desktop) and video are at the very top.  What this means is that these tactics aren’t as effective as they could be until everything else underneath is well-funded and intelligently deployed.  This is because each “level up” catalyzes the benefit of what’s been done before. So when the time comes to rev up the banner and video machine, a brand or product should be at a point where the first three layers are nearing the point of diminishing return.  However, just because you’ve been measuring clicks through Google Analytics to attribute performance and success for the first three layers doesn’t mean that is the way to continue forward.  In fact, if you do, you’re going to need to hammer really hard. Imagine you’re a swimmer. World-class, too. You know how far and long your initial dive should be, how to time your turn at the end of the pool, and how to align your breathing with your stroke.  But now you decide to take up running.  So you hire a coach.  You ask, “how far do I dive and how long do I stay down before I come up for air?” The coach tells you that running is different.  You’re going to need to train, understand, and measure success differently.  In fact, the coach tells you you’ll never win a national championship without shoes.  “Uh, been there done that!”  Display banners and video are that different from the rest of the pyramid.  Using Google Analytics and last click attribution to measure the success of your display is absolutely no less crazy than judging the quality of a runner by how well he turns at the end of a lap and starts running backward. Display banners are clickable, but display advertising is not created for clicking.  Big difference there.  Why should you believe this? Let’s look at several studies that have been done to demonstrate that not only does a display click have little to no value, it will actually send you in the opposite direction in optimizing your media and audience.

  1. 18 years ago (!) the IAB came out with a study showing that even the 2% click through rates of the time didn’t add value or provide a good metric.
  2. 11 years later, comScore and Starcom released the famous “Natural Born Clickers” story.
  3. If this wasn’t case closed, they followed up on the study a year later to ensure the results hadn’t changed. They had.  They’d gotten worse. 8% of internet users account for 85% of clicks? Hmmm.
  4. Nielsen also jumped in. In 2011 Nielsen released a study demonstrated no relationship between clicks and brand metrics or offline sales.
  5. In 2012 comScore again discussed the (lack of) value of the click, showing a .01 correlation between clicking and conversion/purchase. .01! It literally couldn’t get any worse!
  6. Then the IAB implemented a test where it ran banners with nothing in them. Some were a pure white box, others were a pure orange box. The result? These “banners of nothing” achieved the same click through rate the industry sees with brand and direct response banners.

Furthermore, there have been even more studies demonstrating how display actually drives more search traffic, proving that higher pyramid layers build on each other.  These are just two of 10+ studies that have been published in this space. The moral? Square pegs or swimming training – you name the metaphor – don’t work when the new environment isn’t built to be measured the same way.  Let the ad server do the hard work of measuring display banner and video campaigns in such a way that you can learn the true value of your media investment. If you insist on using last click, you should consider sticking with swimming.