Campaign Performance – What is It?

Naturally those of us in the media industry talk often about media performance. But when we use the word “performance,” are we all saying the same thing?  [Hint, hint: we’re not!] So, what is performance, anyway?  

What it used to be –  

Thinking back to my very first internet advertising gig, the company I worked for delivered big ‘ol banner ads to end users by way of a “View Bar.”  That view bar was installed directly on the computer.  

The banner was larger than today’s leaderboard, and the view bar was persistent [it was always there staring at you from the bottom of the computer screen, no matter the website you were surfing]. Based on the size and persistence, you might say that “attention” or “awareness” should have been a relevant performance KPI.  

Yet in reality, clicking was a novelty to the newcomers of the internet, and the digital industry had not yet mastered digital brand studies. And so, it became that the click through rate was the most popular measurement of ad performance in the year 2000.  If you said “performance” it was often assumed that we were talking about a click. 

People were clicking away back then – dare I embarrass myself and say it was fun for a few weeks? In fact, it was not out of the ordinary to see a CTR at .50% and optimize that to upwards of 2%. Did those clicks do anything to impact the advertiser’s bottom line? We did not know the answer, but we still popped open champaign bottles to celebrate a whiz bang of a CTR. 

What’s possible today –  

Thankfully in 2024, there are no installed view bars and we’re not having fun clicking on ads. We also do not rely solely on a click because we have the ability to set and perform against a variety of performance KPIs. Performance does not just mean one thing. Measurement is more sophisticated than it was 20+ years ago and so the ability to set a goal, optimize, and report performance in a sophisticated way is possible too.  

Since we have the luxury of sophisticated measurement today, we also have the responsibility as stewards of our advertiser’s dollars to get it right.  

We have the responsibility to guide appropriate strategies, to target appropriate audiences with the right messaging, to measure it well, and to report fully and transparently.  If an advertiser is satisfied with a click but we know that there’s a better option, shouldn’t we recommend it? We should. 

So how do we get the campaign strategy aligned to a variety of performance KPIs?  

When curating a campaign strategy all the way through to the right performance measurement, it can be an effective exercise to take a step back and think through the journey from creative all the way to outcomes – from the perspective of the recipient of my advertiser’s media campaign – the consumer! I like to think about it as taking a walk with the consumer in my mind’s eye.  

For example:  

  • who I am (audience) 
  • what I am in market for (behavioral indicators) 
  • what content I am visiting (placement detail) 
  • the message I am receiving (creative messaging) 
  • how often and how many times I receive the message (frequency and latency) 
  • when I receive it (time of day; day of week) 
  • the way my actions are being tracked (measurement), and  
  • how long my purchase behaviors are tracked after I’ve seen the message (the duration of the look back window).  

To some, this exercise may seem silly or even obvious. However, stopping to thoughtfully considering that journey helps us to make sure we’re addressing all of the potential nuances to a campaign. Jumping straight into a standardized targeting and performance measurement solution based on an advertiser’s category has the potential to miss that mark. As stewards of our advertisers’ investment dollars, taking the time to do this is worthwhile.  

And back to that question What is performance? With so many options for measurement, the answer to that depends on the ultimate goal of the campaign. When I think of real digital performance, a few good examples come to mind:   

Upper Funnel 

  • incremental reach beyond a TV buy as measured by a smart TV ad exposure study;  
  • lift in brand or product awareness or favorability as measured by a brand study;  


  • consideration as inferred by website visit tracking;  
  • consideration or shopping as measured with foot traffic studies;   

Lower Funnel  

  • deep page visits on a website (“conversions”) inferring intent to purchase or resulting in an online purchase;  
  • actual purchases as measured by credit card swipes, product level purchase data, automobile registrations, or 1st party customer CRM data.  

Now, there’s a whole lot more to the marketing funnel, and a great deal more to say about performance than what we’ve shared today. But asking the question “what does performance mean?” is a really important starting point, particularly in the year 2024.  

What is performance to you?  Did you click on ads in the year 2000?  

Let us know what you think! 

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