Studies: Customer Actions Lag Online Ad Impression

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Consumers often visit an advertiser's Web site in the days following an ad impression rather than immediately, according to two new studies.


Though click-through rates long have been the standard direct response measurement for online ads, they fail to capture actions taken in the days after the impression. The two studies argue that advertisers should consider view-through data, which gauge customer activity following an impression, to get a better idea of campaign performance.


A study released today by Advertising.com found that 85 percent of customer conversions for a credit card advertiser occurred after the first day in a 14-day campaign. More than 15 percent of conversions happened after the seventh day. Advertising.com examined ad campaigns totaling 370 million impressions for airline tickets, credit cards and hotels, looking at various time frames.


"What was shocking, in many respects, was that by far the majority of conversions happen well after the impression," said Scott Ferber, chief executive of Advertising.com, a Baltimore online marketing services company.


Advertising.com's findings were buttressed by New York ad technology company DoubleClick's third-quarter ad-serving report. The report, released yesterday, found view-through rates over a 30-day period averaged 0.77 percent, up 22 percent from last quarter.


DoubleClick collected its view-through data from its DART for Advertisers customers that use its view-through tracking option, called Spotlight tags. Comparative click-through rates in the quarter rose just 4 percent to 0.54 percent.


Despite the data showing a majority of conversions happen after the initial impression, Ferber estimated that only 15 percent of Advertising.com clients regularly track view-through information; DoubleClick said more than 80 percent of its clients have used Spotlight tags at least once.


DoubleClick has tracked rising view-through rates for the past seven quarters, as click-through rates have declined.


Doug Knopper, DoubleClick's vice president and general manager of online advertising, said view-through information was a "critical measure" while allowing that "not all clients are tracking that kind of data or have use for that kind of data."


Ferber said he expects advertisers would show more interest in view-through data as the staying power of online ads became more apparent.


"The interactive medium is not an immediate medium," he said. "Interactive does not mean instantaneous."


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