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CTRs Aren't Enough for Mobile Ad Measurement

Secondary action rates better indicators of mobile ad awareness or engagement

October 13, 2014

Marketers only using clickthrough rates (CTRs) to measure mobile ad performance may need to take a step back and re-evaluate, based on a September 2014 report by xAd, Nielsen and Placed. According to the research, while CTR has been the standard metric for online banner ad engagement, it doesn’t completely cut it when looking at mobile ads. Why? The threat of accidental clicks on small screens and the inability to measure post-click engagement.

Effect of Optimizing for Clickthrough Rate (CTR) vs. Secondary Action Rate (SAR) Among US Mobile Ads, by Industry, H1 2014

Instead, the research suggested secondary action rates (SARs)—those measuring actions such as calls, directions and more information—were better indicators of mobile ad awareness, engagement or purchase intent. Even more so, CTR tended to be completely unrelated, or even negatively correlated, to SAR metrics.

xAd, Nielsen and Placed noted that key performance indicators were necessary for determining which metrics campaigns should be optimized for. Looking at CTR-optimized campaigns—those where clicks were the highest, whether unintentional or intentional—CTRs improved across industries studied in H1 2014. Optimizing for CTR raised CTRs for US retail mobile ads by 40%, while restaurant and auto ads were up 33% and 16%, respectively. However, SARs fell across the board.

SAR-optimized mobile ad campaigns didn’t have nearly as much of an effect on CTRs. Here, the retail space saw a huge leap of 219% in SARs. SARs for restaurant mobile ads also jumped by triple digits, and those for auto campaigns nearly doubled. Meanwhile, decreases in CTRs averaged around 25%.

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