Impression Measurement: The Ultimate Advertising Metric

20943849-1“Comparing Apples with Oranges” – an idiom that states: two different things, objects, subjects, etc. cannot be compared.

Truth be told – if you cannot compare apples and oranges, you’re not doing it right.

You can compare apples and oranges if you have the right scale of measurement – Nutritional Information!

The nutritional contents of an apple or orange are always compared on similar metrics – Macronutrients, Vitamins, Minerals and so on.

orange-vs-appleImage Credits: Souper Sage

The reality is, if you know what metric to use, you can actually compare apples and oranges – or apples and lobsters, or oranges and baguettes.

That said, you may not be able to compare things like “Apples and Horse Carriages” or “Oranges and Battleships” on Nutritional Value – you might want to look for a different scale of measurement then.

Essentially, the metric you choose has to relate to the final objective – which if it were to see, "Which is easier to hit with a Torpedo?" you might find ‘Battleships’ a slightly easier target than an ‘Orange’ bobbing about at sea - hence comparable.

And that’s a very roundabout way of saying what we really want to say – that for you to gauge your ad campaign performance, you need to find that common metric that works across all campaigns, all your ads and all your ad channels, period!

Triple Check your Double Standards

We’ve all done this – we’ve run digital marketing campaigns, TV ad campaigns, radio spots and print ads – and while we measured digital marketing campaigns based on the impressions and click-throughs we got, we gave TV, radio and print ads an easier ride.

Digital got picked on for being visible to 23,639 people on Sunday, but only getting 1,791 people to click on it – while TV, radio and print got commended for telling us that approximately 500,000 people (give or take 500k) might have seen your ad over the last 3-days.

Digital ads – including search ads, Internet ads and social media ads – are a victim of their own success, in that they provide evidence on how the ad performed.

Television, radio and print are gauged on how well you – the advertiser – performed (creating the ad, devising a media plan and executing that plan).

Essentially, digital shifted the focus onto the actual advertisement by bringing in Impression Measurement and accountability – making it the most popular advertising channel of them all!

It also means that marketers and brands can, instead of shooting an expensive TV commercial and running it for a month, make 30-different digital ads that can be shown to different people at different locations, based on their interests; multiple times over a month – at almost a third of the cost (if not more).

In essence, television, radio and print advertising are a bit like a Poker hand where you don’t cut your losses.

Impressions Cut Your Losses

Most advertisements are approved by marketers sitting in a conference room, going through the proposals that their team or agencies have brought in.

The call to make an investment on hiring those actors or models, hiring a production set, director, equipment and so on, to make that ad is entirely based on the opinion of the people in that room.

If you want to get 100,000 customers, then those 5 or 10-people in that room must know exactly what those 100,000 people need to become customers.

With that estimate, they are allowed to choose those ads, approve those creatives and sign on the cheques that initiate the campaign.

This worked 20-years ago when there was no way of knowing whether those meeting attendees were right or wrong – sales could be attributed to ads, campaigns or word-of-mouth – no one could put their finger precisely on the source.


When search, Internet and social media ads brought Impressions into the mix, they gave insights that none of these other channels could.

You were no longer worried about spending big money on major productions with the hope of hitting the target – you instantly knew whether you were hitting the target or not and could quickly change your strategy and approach.

So TV, print and radio advertisers became poker players who couldn’t fold a hand because they’d put too much money into the pot.

Despite holding terrible cards – they kept calling (running their already expensive campaign) in the hopes of a miracle, all because they were afraid to lose the money they had already invested.

The smart ones knew that the money invested in the pot was not more important than their bankroll – because the bankroll determined whether they’d stay in the game or not – not the pot!

So even if they’d bet a considerable chunk of money, they could fold and cut their losses rather than trying to ride a wave knowing they couldn’t swim - essentially, shut down an underperforming campaign.

In essence, the introduction of impressions made Internet, search and social media ads so cheap and flexible, you could easily cancel or change a campaign without worrying too much about losing investments.

Outdoor Ads on the Same Scale

It hasn’t been long but there’s been significant developments that have brought outdoor advertising on the same measurement scale as Internet, search or social media ads – Impressions.

While the nature of outdoor advertising, screens and billboards have meant that the process of calculating those outdoor ad impressions is a lot more complicated than it is for digital, the fact is that outdoor ad performance can now be judged on the same metric as Internet, search or social media ads.

In other words, outdoor ad performance has been broken down to the same “vitamin, carbohydrate, fat or protein level” as digital ads’ performance - the metric for performance measurement is Impressions!

That means the level of accountability that Internet, social media and search ads are held to, now are also applicable to outdoor ads.

All that remains is flexibility – now, if only there was some platform where you could pick and choose impression based outdoor ad campaigns!


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