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Mobile ad measurement begins to evolve beyond click-through rates

The Economist has introduced new mobile advertising analytics that focus on user attention to measure campaign success as the call grows louder for measurement standards addressing the unique qualities of smartphone engagement better than impressions served and click-through rates. 

The need for different data sets to measure mobile advertising is supported by a new report from xAd, which reveals that click-through rates on mobile are a poor indicator of whether or not someone will engage in post-click activities or visit a store. The Economist sees offering new metrics as a way to help its clients run more successful mobile ad campaigns. 

?We?re offering TimeGuarantee and ViewGuarantee, and highlighting attention metrics more generally with clients, because we think it is a much better performance indicator for brand campaigns than just impressions and clicks,? said Audra Martin, vice president of digital advertising at The Economist. 

?As mobile continues to become more friendly and critical for brand marketing, it?s important that we carry through the things that work for brands,? she said. 

?Audience time is precious and as our ability to measure attention has increased, marketers have gotten more sophisticated in using it. So in some cases marketers are coming to us, but in many we?re starting the conversation because we think smarter plans focused on attention will make our clients more successful.?

Attention metrics
The click-through rate is the preferred way to measure banner ad engagement in online advertising and was adopted by most marketers during the transition to mobile. 

However, as mobile advertising has grown, it has become increasingly clear that this data is not as insightful when applied to smartphone users. This is because small touchscreens frequently lead to accidental clicks, which can inflate CTR rates. 

The problem with CTR on mobile extends beyond the fat finger syndrome. Smartphones are very personal devices that consuemrs are engaging with throughout their day and enable dynamic, interactive experiences. For this reason, marketers are considering new ways to measure when an ad successfully engages a smartphone user. 

?Marketers want better metrics to measure success and drive ROI and publishers are looking to both get ahead of the curve and figure out better ways to transact that go beyond traditional impressions and clicks,? said Jonah Goodhart, CEO of Moat. ?The partnership with The Economist is about a premium publisher offering the ability to transact on ?attention metrics? in an effort to drive results for brand marketers and increase market share for The Economist.? 

Mobile is different
In its 2014 Mobile Ad Measurement Study, xAd analyzed 80 mobile ad campaign across 12 major brands in retail, restaurant and auto verticals and that click-through rates appear to be completely unrelated or even negatively correlated with how often users take a secondary action such as calling, looking for directions or visiting a store. 

The study also found that lower click-through rates were often associated with the highest lifts store visitation. 

Since most purchases still happen offline, xAd believes one of the primary goals of any mobile campaign should be to drive in-store traffic and sales. 

The results show that store-visitation lift, or the percentage of ad-exposed audience that visited a retail location divided by non-ad-exposed visitors, appeared to be the best purchase indicator for all verticals. 

Secondary actions came in second, indicating that consumers that take secondary action after viewing an ad are also very likely to convert.

?The most surprising finding was the strong inverse relationship we saw between CTR and engagement metrics like secondary action rate and store visitation lift,? said Monica Ho, senior vice president of marketing at xAd, New York. ?For instance, when a campaign had very low CTR, it was often driving very high secondary engagement rates and/or a significant lift in actual in-store traffic. 

?This study and the findings really underscore the fact that mobile is inherently different from desktop,? she said. ?This is true for everything from targeting to creative to measurement. 

?If marketers relied more on true mobile engagement metrics, like a secondary action rate or store visitation lift, they would have a better understanding of the real impact that their mobile efforts have on driving engagement and/or in-store traffic and sales. We believe this would lead to increased investments in mobile marketing.?

Change is coming
The Economist Group is launching new metrics in recognition of the fact that more marketers are looking for metrics that measure time spent viewing ads and engagement with ads rather than impressions and clicks. 

ViewGuarantee promises 75 percent ad visibility on Economist.com, which is 20 percent higher than average performance across the Web.  

TimeGuarantee promises a cumulative time spent of more than 250 hours - up to 700 hours in some cases - viewing an ad on The Economist?s digital editions.

?The new metrics are available across all digital editions, reflecting how mobile is influencing an evolution in metrics on desktop as well. 

The two new audience attention guarantees are measured and audited using independent, third-party tools from Adobe and Moat.

?We anticipated that the move to ad visibility, ViewGuarantee, would have happened faster to be honest,? Ms. Martin said. ?It is something we?ve been evaluating over the last few years, but the main things holding it back have been definition - eg, what is considered visible, real attention outside of direct response campaign? - and technology - how to measure and confirm it has met the definition.

?Now that the IAB has an agreed definition and more technology is available to measure it - like Moat Analytics, who we use - things are moving much faster,? she said. ?Though important in television for years, measuring time spent on digital ads, TimeGuarantee, has become important recently as media consumption expands to more devices at different parts of our day. 

?It?s anybody?s guess, but I anticipate the pace of adopting and trading on attention metrics will increase dramatically and we?ll see a large chunk of digital media bought this way within about 18 months.?

Final Take?
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York