The Irish Times runs four audience panels for research purposes (operated in conjunction with our business partner, RAM Panel). One panel is dedicated to irishtimes.com and represents our Republic of Ireland digital audience.

A huge advantage of the digital audience panel rests in the scope we gain to study the impact of online ads beyond traditional click-through rate metrics.

We are all aware that click-through rate, or CTR, means the interaction on a display ad bringing you to the brand Web site or tailored brochure page for that ad. In other words, you have to physically interact with the advertisement to be counted.

For me, CTR misses important aspects of engagement with ads, and we are not serving our advertisers well if we focus only on CTR as a measure of campaign success.

Strong voices in the industry show counter-arguments to CTR are gaining momentum.

As John Lowell of Starcom points out, “A click means nothing, earns no revenue and creates no brand equity. Your online advertising has some goal – and it’s certainly not to generate clicks.”

Equally, John Battelle, board member of the IAB, argues, “You don’t build brands by optimising for clicks. There needs to be other measurements.”

Globally, CTR continues to be low. 

Doubleclick Benchmark Data from Google.com shows only one in 1,000 Irish people will click on a display ad. Our own panel research underlines the argument that eyeballs matter more than CTR as an indicator of potential audience action; as with newspaper advertising, ad exposure is key.

Our recent research on exposure-driven action utilised our digital audience panel, testing respondents’ reaction to irishtimes.com display ads.

Ad surveys were sent to the panel and included these simple questions:

  1. Did you see this ad on irishtimes.com?

  2. If so, did you click on the ad?

  3. If you didn’t click on the ad, are you still interested in purchasing this product/visiting the store/Web site because you saw it on irishtimes.com?

Survey results are weighted against our Google Analytics data for that day’s Republic of Ireland visitors to the site section.

One survey involved the advertisement pictured above, a homepage takeover for D.I.D. Electrical, which is an Irish chain of white goods and electronics stores.

The ad ran for 24 hours on irishtimes.com and, of 84,000 Irish visitors to the homepage that day, 1,808 clicked on the D.I.D. ad (a CTR of .27%).

But our panel survey results reveal that 47% of Irish visitors to the site that day recalled the HPTO. Of those who didn’t click, 60% agreed they were encouraged to visit D.I.D.’s Web site or a D.I.D. store because they were exposed to the ad.

This equates to nearly 20,000 people!

So to conclude, I leave you with a timely quote from Kirby Winfield of COMSCORE, who argues, “It’s time to start measuring the impact of campaigns using metrics that really matter, not just the ones that are most easily measured.”