In 2007, before social media went mainstream, an average consumer was already exposed to 5,000 ads per day. Nowadays we can assume the number has climbed into double digits. Attention is scarce and precious, and that prompts us — marketers and brand managers alike — to carefully weigh each advertising decision.
In omnichannel marketing, it’s easy to cheer on the cumulative results — growing brand consideration and web traffic — instead of untangling the messy combo of actions that drove them. But, such an approach is nearsighted.
By focusing on the big picture, you ignore the granular opportunities for optimization — the ones standing behind those major results. A combo of paid mobile ads, banner campaigns, and content marketing can drive a positive ad ROI. Yet, over 99.99% of banner ad budgets wasted. Yours too perhaps, but you can’t tell for sure unless you create a setup for measuring ad campaign effectiveness across channels.
This article explains how you can easily measure advertising campaign effectiveness both on and offline.
How to Measure Advertising Campaign Effectiveness
Select Your Metrics
Advertising campaigns have three goals: inform, persuade, and remind consumers about your product. The best way to determine whether your ads are achieving these objectives is to tie them to relevant metrics.
The most common ad metrics are:
Brand recognition - can your audience identify yours among others?
Brand awareness — are you a top-of-mind association?
Brand consideration - are they interested in purchasing your products?
These provide a baseline understanding of consumer preferences, awareness, and intention to purchase. But collecting brand data without a brand tracker is challenging. Thus, marketers that don’t have such a tool in place leverage online advertising metrics — which are proxy and/or complementary to the above.
Impressions (ad views) - the number of times your ad is shown to the viewer.
Click-through-rate (CTR) - the percentage of times your ad gets clicked, when on display.
Cost per click (CPC) - a dollar value you are paying for each click or another type of action (conversion, sale, etc).
Conversion rate — the percentage of times your ads leads to a desired action (e.g. a sale or a subscription)
Return on ad spend (ROAS) - the amount of revenue you earn for each dollar spent on ads.
Social media sentiment - the attitude and feelings people bring up on social networks.
Earned mentions - the number of brand mentions and links, organically acquired from online publishers.
Together, these 10 metrics can help you analyze your ads’ performance across channels and baselines.
You don’t need to track all of them though. Focus on those that best capture your campaign’s type and channel. For example, if your goal is to improve brand awareness in a new market, track brand awareness, recall, social media sentiment, and earned mentions. Alternatively, if you want to maximize sales, pay more attention to brand consideration, CTR, CPC, conversion rates, and ROAS.
We’ll show how you can do that using free and paid advertising analytics tools.
3 Ways to Measure Offline Ad Campaign Effectiveness
Offline marketing is a strong contender for driving brand awareness and improving brand recall. Print, TV, and billboards — all have their marketing merit in 2021, especially, if you can attribute their impact to exact consumer actions. Here are three ways to do that.
Track Brand Lift Post Ad Campaign
Linear TV ads are dubbed as “outdated”. Yet, TV ad spending sagged only by 7% in 2020 (compared to 2019) with brands across the MENA region collectively spending over $869 million.
Not surprisingly, even digital-first brands don’t shy away from TV ads. Klarna’s four “quarter-sized cowboys” ad during the 2021 Super Bowl became the talk of marketing town.
Klarna wanted to communicate its unique brand affinity to US consumers as part of its go-to-market strategy. Distinctive aesthetics, a diverse cast, and a humorous spin on “paying in fours” steered a positive response with the viewers.
Following the ads, the number of US searches for “Klarna” immediately increased by 73%. The company received follow-up coverage by online and offline media (including direct interviews with the CEO).
To measure brand lift after a TV commercial you can:
Track the volume of brand and product name searchers
Monitor the number of earned mentions
Analyze direct, referral, and branded traffic numbers
Run brand tracking surveys to measure recall and purchase intent
Use Vanity URLs to Measure Clicks and Traffics
The common problem with offline ads is lack of attribution. In the words of nineteenth-century retailer John Wanamaker:
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.
In the 21st century, we have better means to establish how offline ads drive business results: by linking them up with “trackable” online metrics.
To understand if your offline campaign drives desired actions, create a vanity URL to associate with it — a custom web address that you can track for clicks, referral traffic, and conversions.
You can set up vanity URLs in two ways:
With a branded URL shortener (example: mywebsite.com/nytimes)
Or using Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) - a code snippet, attached to the URL that captures website visitors information (example: mywebsite.com/utm_medium=adcampaign1)
Assign such URLs to different marketing assets — billboard, print, or outdoor signage. Then use Google Analytics to track referral traffic.
(Spotify uses a vanity URL to drive traffic to My Year Wrapped landing page)
Vanity URLs can be also “packed” into QR codes for print, in-store ads, and signage to make your ads more interactive, plus provide you with first-hand data on the prospects’ subsequent actions. For example, you can measure how many people opened the discount QR code versus how many used it for in-store checkout.
Set Up and Monitor Campaign Hashtags
Branded hashtags are a good proxy to measure consumer’s engagement with your ad, especially if you are running an interactive campaign. Examples include collecting user-generated content and using it for marketing or rallying public support for a cause your brand stands for.
(Topshop was among the first retail brands to run a real-time shoppable campaign on Twitter, streaming real-time consumer data to digital billboards around the UK).
A branded hashtag helps you augment your offline campaign with social media data. You can then measure:
Post and hashtag reach
Follower and engagement growth
Referral traffic from social media
Overall consumer sentiment
Similar to vanity URLs, hashtags help estimate the response to your ads. On top of that, they help amplify your campaigns’ reach through the network effect and help build up the “virality” momentum.
How to Measure Online Ads Effectiveness
With online ads, measurement is more straightforward. Most ad platforms offer native analytics and attribution tools to capture an array of metrics and results.
So you need to:
Determine the tracked metrics and channels
Select an attribution model
Monitor and analyze the findings
Google Analytics (GA) is your best bet for both offline and online ad analytics. Using one of the eight attribution models, you can estimate how different channels — referrals, social media, paid ads, email marketing — contribute to your campaign goals.
An attribution model helps examine how overlapping marketing channels (for example organic social media and paid ad campaigns) drive a certain result (e.g., sale). The model also assigns value to every one of them, based on their “contribution” to converting a web visitor.
However, the “weight distribution” differs from one model to another. Multi-touch attribution, for example, gives credit to each channel a web visitor interacted with before converting.
Time decay attribution example:
Sam first landed on your website via a Facebook ad (10%). Later she googled the brand name and clicked from search results (15%). After checking several blog posts, she subscribed to your newsletter (25%). Five days later she received a sales email and bought the product (50%).
Such models are more representative of the modern consumer journeys, spanning over different touchpoints.
Single-touch attribution also has its merit for short-term, simple campaigns. For example, if you want to track how many sales a vanity URL drives from a print campaign, you can use last interaction attribution — a model that contributes full credit to the last action.
Single-touch attribution models are easier to set up and more straightforward to analyze. But they provide limited visibility into your customers’ journeys. Skimming on some data (e.g., touchpoints/actions proceeding the purchase) can eschew your assumptions about the channel's effectiveness.
For comparison, if the time decay example was measured with a first touch attribution model, all the credit would go to a FB ad. The brand might then decide to double their ad spending but cut down on long-form content and then wonder why conversion rates have declined.
Experienced digital marketers also know that attribution models (even the advanced data-driven ones) still tell two-thirds of the story. You can learn about your target audience's interactions with online ads and different assets on your website. But you may struggle to understand what’s driving direct traffic and why some audience segments respond best to your pitches than others.
Measure Brand Performance for More Ad Insights
Brand performance metrics such as recall, awareness, affinity, consideration, and equity provide extra context into the customer’s actions. These factors often explain the direct traffic numbers and better/worse performance of certain campaign types.
We learned that Calm has very high aided brand recall numbers among people who meditate regularly through measuring brand performance. Marketing campaigns that are tailored to these audiences will naturally drive better results. On the other hand, the effectiveness of marketing to non-relevant audiences (for example people with low education) in Calm’s case will likely lead to ad budget waste.
How to Measure Brand Performance
Measuring brand performance is a more complex task since ad platforms don’t provide native analytics tools fit for purpose. Still, it’s a doable one.
To gauge where you stand, consider tracking the following brand health metrics:
Target audience brand perception (recall, awareness, consideration)
Earned mentions acquired via digital PR and organically
Search volumes for branded keywords
Clicks and conversions on campaign-specific landing pages.
You have two ways to collect and interpret this data.
Our brand tracking platform helps monitor and analyze:
Core branding KPIs among selected target audiences. You can also set up a custom question to track KPIs specific to your brand.
Ad awareness - find out how different audiences discovered your brand and which ad channels work best for you.
You can also use granular audience segmentation to monitor how specific campaigns resonate with a target group, identified based on behavioral, geographic, or demographic data.
Using Google Analytics Google Analytics also provides a set of audience segmentation tools you can use to interpret how your ads perform with different buyer groups. This may require some “hacking-together”, though.
Separate “branded” and “non-branded” traffic. Non-branded searchers will likely come from people who are not familiar with your company. Analyze how the two search groups interact with your website and what assets prompt conversions in each case.
Enrich your analytics with first-party data. You can upload your audience data to GA such as insights gathered via online surveys or focus groups. Then layer it atop behavioral data to create enriched audience profiles. Doing so can give you a better understanding of how different segments interact with your brand.
Segment traffic by location. GA geolocalization supports segmenting by country, state, and city. This report helps better evaluate the impact of local campaigns.
Ad campaign effectiveness has long been a debatable industry issue. Can we really pair each dollar spent to a particular outcome? Not always. Does that mean that “guesstimation” is our best choice when it comes to measuring ad and brand performance? Hopefully, this guide proved otherwise!
Metrics are critical. They serve a dual purpose — help formalize campaign goals and set the baselines for tracking. Without proper metrics, you cannot tell if an ad campaign delivers on the set goals or not.
Link offline and online channels. Use digital platforms and tools to integrate offline campaigns into online buyer’s journeys and monitor brand lift online using trackable URLs, hashtags, and increases in brand search volumes and traffic.
Experiment with different attribution models. No model is perfect, but each provides a different type of visibility into your marketing channels and their contribution to conversions. Configure your analytics tools to capture granular traffic insights for different audience segments, campaign types, and marketing channels.
Fill in the knowledge gaps with brand performance tracking. Use advanced audience segmentation and brand monitoring tools to pinpoint your most valuable audiences and drive awareness among them.