It's Time To Rethink How We Measure Native Ad Effectiveness: Updating Flip Phone Thinking For A Smartphone World

on The Future of Advertising

There was a time when you would choose a wireless plan based on the number of minutes it included. In those pre-iPhone days, when all you could really do with a cellphone was make calls or text, evaluating plans by minutes made a lot of sense. Nowadays our phones are more handheld computer than telephone and the metric that matters is data.

When it comes to measuring native ad effectiveness, many advertisers are still comparing "minutes" when they should be looking at "data." Advertisers have always valued clicks and CTR over impressions, which makes sense if you're evaluating banner ads, where the impression on its own has little value.

Native advertising should have changed this. A native ad with a headline has far more impression value than a banner, value which is best ascertained by measuring headline quality or brand lift. And yet CTR remains the de facto metric for evaluating all display, including native ads.

Ad recall, in which advertisers literally ask survey participants "which of the following brands do you recall seeing an ad for?" is another outdated metric that still holds currency. When banners still dominated the internet, ad recall surveys were common. In a world where only 50% of banners were viewable and fraud was rampant, it made sense to verify that your ad was seen by an actual human being.

But times change. Viewability and fraud aren't as much of a concern for native advertising as they were for banners. On the Sharethrough Exchange we only trade on viewable impressions. While there may be merit in asking "was my ad seen?": it shouldn't be the first, or even fifth thing you ask in a brand lift study. Advertisers would be much better off focusing on favorability, intent, or even message recall, a more specific version of ad recall that helps advertisers understand whether their headlines are resonating with consumers.

Native advertising requires a new kind of measurement, one based on the unique features of this format: native headlines, placement within the feed, native videos that autoplay on mute.

At Sharethrough we've taken matters into our own hands, partnering with Kantar Millward Brown to create a suite of measurement tools specifically designed to evaluate native ads.

This Brand Insights product features five standardized brand lift packages, each tailored to a specific strategy. We have packages for brand awareness, consideration and intent, as well as message perception and product awareness.

So how do Sharethrough's Brand Insights packages differ from other brand lift solutions?

  • We ask more questions—able to ask as many as eight for our standard studies. Some brand lift solutions only ask one question. We partner with Kantar Millward Brown for our brand lift studies, which offers a two million-person panel that gives us the ability to ask more questions without worrying about recruitment.

  • Our questions are selected to address a range of topics. For instance, our brand consideration package asks three brand questions (awareness, familiarity, advocacy) and two campaign questions (brand perception and message awareness).

  • The packages are setup to provide as much context as possible.

Take our Brand Consideration Package: if you’re trying to understand if consumers have taken a more favorable interest in your brand, your first step is to make sure they’re aware of your brand (you can’t take interest in what you’re not aware of). Next step is to figure out how familiar the consumer is with the brand. These two questions give context to the central question: brand advocacy, or how likely is the consumer to recommend the brand. Asking these additional brand questions gives the advertiser more context, providing a more complete picture of the audience and its stance toward the brand.

For instance, if brand advocacy was low and showed no lift, but familiarity and awareness were high with significant lift, we could deduce that the brand is generally well-known and consumers are familiar with the offering, and that the problem lies at the advocacy stage. For some reason the brand is having difficulty converting that general familiarity into advocacy. The brand now knows it needs to invest in content and messaging that will turn people who are familiar with the brand into advocates.

Advertising has changed, just as the cellphone market has changed. Native ads, which have surpassed banner ads as the most common form of online advertising, are as different from banners as smartphones are from flip phones. It’s time we recognized this and started using metrics that actually matter.