Stop The CTR Obsession!

I’m continually amazed at the consistent obsession that agencies and clients have about clickthrough rate. CTR, CTR, CTR! Fast becoming the dirtiest acronym in media – or is it?

As agencies increase their digital expertise and consistently educate clients about the importance of digital within the wider communications mix, it’s become all too easy to refer back to the easiest to understand metric – the ubiquitous clickthrough rate. One might argue that this is the most straightforward measure metric to start clients on and helps them understand the basics and build from there. I disagree – we’re missing a big trick and are in danger of oversimplifying a very complicated space by talking to clients in the simplest possible terms, using the simplest possible metric.In order to truly educate clients, we should be overlaying core digital metrics with language that clients already understand – coverage, frequency, exposure, reach, recall, response and ROI. Ultimately Client X doesn’t care what his CTR rate when all he wants to do is increase his brand awareness scores, but because that’s what he’s been taught by his media and creative agency to be the important metric, he has to crowbar this irrelevant metric into his results and somehow cobble together an explanation that clicks = awareness.

So what are the alternatives? Ultimately the most sensible approach is to tailor your campaign metrics to your campaign objectives. A great example of this is a campaign that uses VoD to increase reach and frequency of brand TV activity. For the client, the key response metric is likely to be an increase in brand awareness scores and a demonstration of how this awareness converts into increased sales / viewing figures / ticket sales, etc. In a campaign like this, the CTR is irrelevant. What we really need to be talking to the client about is the total amount of exposure the target audience received and whether or not the VoD creative was successful in generating post-impression activity back to the client’s site. Tie this is with some quant reasearch and Client X will have a much better picture of the success of the campaign, then if he were to just receive a report based on clicks and CTR. So to take it back to traditional terms, a campaign like this should be looking at reach, frequency and brand recall as core metrics of online success.

Key to implementing this type of approach is an understanding of the role of digital in the wider comms mix. Digital isn’t a channel or medium – digital complements and enhances other part of the comms plan, which means that a silo approach where the digital agency / department receives briefs long after the comms planners / comms agency have crafted a solution will never work. Consumers don’t consume media in channels, so why should media be planned in channels?

Keen to impress your clients? Drop the obsession with CTR and start looking at the bigger picture. You’ll get better results and your clients will love you for it.

4 thoughts on “Stop The CTR Obsession!

  1. I completely agree… the thing that’s got clients thinking like this is that because it can be measured, and easily, then it must be important; after all, other media like press would kill for a metric like this.

    But Einstein had a point: “Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts.”

    Although he was maybe thinking about something a little tougher on the grey cells than advertising… 🙂

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