Don't we need to judge success by response?
by Roy Beagley


Recently an article on noted that ‘the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that more than a third of web traffic is fraudulent’ suggesting the fix is in as results are being inflated by ‘viruses and bots designed to artificially inflate traffic numbers.’ This all sounds somewhat underhand, but is it really a problem?

BPA in a recent study learned ‘that only 40% of the ads measured were actually viewable’ which means that 60% are not, all well and good, but again is this actually a problem?

We used to ascertain whether a marketing or advertising campaign was successful by the amount of money, or orders the campaign gained. For some, the important factor was money in the bank, for others it was orders. Nobody ever judged the success, or otherwise, by how many people actually saw the promotion. I don’t think anybody presumed that everyone receiving the promotion would actually look at it, so why are we making this an issue now involving ‘bots’ etc.?

Regardless of whether you are trying to achieve more traffic to a web site, or are sending out an email campaign, it does not make sense to determine whether a campaign has been successful or not by the number of “clicks” or “views” that are achieved. Direct mail campaigns can, and have been measured accurately for years based on total orders as a percentage of total quantity mailed.  No one ever suggested that the 97% who DIDN’T respond doomed every direct mail campaign to failure.

In these days of instant results we lose track of the fact that different email programs do different things. For example, of the email I received this morning 87% of it was spam, but because of the type of email program I have, all of my email will have been considered opened and read, even though all I did, was click on the email and delete it… I know, because I asked a company fully proficient in deploying and analyzing email promotions. In other words, I look like a good prospect… but I’m not.

Until recently it was the total dollars or orders that counted, not the number of people that opened the direct mail package or read the advertisements, shouldn’t that still be the standard?

No advertiser ever assumed that every reader of a magazine looked at his or her advertisement; the measure of success was cost verses income. I don’t think they would even expect 40% of the readers to view the ad – just as long as the expenditure/income ratio was acceptable.

Advertisers and advertising sales personnel can determine their market; many of them have been doing it with great success for years. They know that a 100% paid publication in their market is probably a good bet to get orders. For controlled publications advertisers were able to look at one year direct request subscriptions, in conjunction with adds and kills to get a picture as to a magazine’s circulation health. By comparing a recent statement with an older statement it was easy to determine a controlled publication’s value to its readers and make a decision based on that data. Since BPA made some reporting optional, making a fair and accurate comparison is no longer possible.

The world has changed, many people run promotions to get people to look at web sites, and the website owner sells advertising based on the number of people looking .The fact there are “bots” and “viruses” inflating figures is disturbing, not to mention dishonest, and one could argue illegal. It should be stopped, but if advertisers returned to judging a promotion’s effectiveness by the orders or money gained, surely they would be better off. ‘Viruses’ and ‘bots’ can inflate click-throughs, page views and a whole host of other nasty things, but as far as I am aware, ‘viruses’ and ‘bot’s’ have not actually placed any orders.

It is natural to desire the most effective response to a campaign, regardless of what it is for. Direct marketers have been doing it for years, and yes we all want to promote the most positive figures we can – but those figures actually have to mean something, and in many cases, they don’t

Some have argued that as a result of the Interactive Advertising Bureau findings, rates for advertising should be reduced. The argument being if you are not reaching a certain percentage of the file, your rates are inflated, but this really is not the case. Nobody ever claims to reach a certain percentage of the file, because if they did, they would have to prove it – and that is a claim that is unsupportable.

You can have 20 million page views a day, and blast out millions of emails with links galore… but unless someone places an order… the bubble you operate in will burst.

We should get rid of the “bots” and “viruses” if for no other reason than as an industry we need to correctly analyze data many of us have spent quite a bit of money investing in, as with most viruses we need to develop a vaccine so our industry remains healthy.

However, if you get rid of all the harassments people can devise to inflate figures, and we manage to achieve a world where page views and such are 100% correct and accurate – unless you actually gets orders etc., we will be no further forward than we are now.