As a digital planner you tend to spend a lot of your time looking at spreadsheets and numbers trying to figure out where your clients should be spending their money. The best digital planners are able to take performance data, wrap it with common sense and give brilliant insight and recommendations. With this I have become alarmed at the rise of Post Impression Tracking as the lead reporting metric for display advertising.
I can only put the blame for this on media buyers trying to replicate their current business model online with channel specific silos to take a % of the media. But digital buying is much more complex than bus shelters and escalators ads, and hence why the best digital agencies plan against the entire customer journey. The problem with channel silos is without consideration of other channels and touch points it is far too easy to misreport campaign performance.
The best example of this is with the typical media buying strategy for PPC being heavily weighted to brand terms. Why? Well the cost per acquisition (CPA) is lower because brand terms are less competitive and thus have a lower cost per click and natural conversions are being cannibalised by the paid links
With this the media buyer reports a low CPA to the client and the client is happy. Yet managed correctly the client should have a higher average CPA for PPC but a lower CPA across all channels.
And it is a similar problem with display ads. Because they can be tracked the client wants to know what their click through and conversion rates are. Now rather than be honest with clients and explain why they don’t perform as a DR channel, media buyers have slipped Post Impression Tracking under the radar. Failing campaigns are now being reported as successful without any question of the methodology.
So what is Post Impression Tracking? Well the theory is if your browser is exposed to an ad online and you purchase from that brand, then the ad was what influenced you. So with my visit to Amazon (see below) I received tracking cookies for Thomson Holidays, British Gas, Barclay Card and Europcar. The problem with the theory is that at no point did I actually physically see these ads because they were below my fold. Yet if I purchased from any of these brands then the ad would be attributed as responsible or influential on the purchase. And even worse some media buyers will track this on a 30 day window.