Over the past eight years, working in Digital Marketing, I saw the industry obsessing over many different metrics when talking about performance campaigns: CPM, CPC, CTR, and then finally focusing on more meaningful metrics such as CPA, ROAS, and profitability.
The reason why DR online marketing is a no-brainer nowadays is that, after years of debating on which metrics were meaningful, the right tools came along to take the guesswork and the heavy-lifting away from the people buying the media, and give it to machine-learning algorithms. Products like AdWords can automatically manage bids and placements to hit the desired cost per action, return on ad spend, or profitability.
This level of automation has come with incredible advantages to the industry as a whole. What used to be a very manual, slow, and tedious process, is now done by machines in a fraction of a second. Don’t get me wrong, true DR optimization is a very involved process, and that is why it is so hard to find real talent in this space: in my experience, I’ve seen only a handful of people doing it right and every expert you talk to has a slightly different way to go about it. Also, even when we reduce the complexity from the media buying process, there is still much to be done to optimize the creative and the conversion funnel. When deciding who owns the landing page or the creative development process, the debate often becomes political rather than tactical.
All this is possible in the Direct Response world because the relevant metrics are clear, the industry has reached consensus on what matters and machines can be leveraged to optimize the buying process.
Branding is not there. The industry talks about viewability, and there is not even agreement on what constitutes a viewable impression (e.g. for videos it could be a muted play for 3 seconds, or a full in view play with audio and video). But that’s just scratching the surface: if we were to draw a parallel for the DR world, it would be like asking that each ad should be clickable. It is not a measure of success, but the minimum requirement for even having a conversation.
I get it; it’s a vast and complex problem: publishers have been building their revenue models on different metrics, and asking them to switch suddenly is not sustainable for the industry. The work that many are doing in the space of “native advertising” is exciting, although there are still many technical and moral gray areas (e.g. advertorial).