Canadian campaigns missing the mark online: study

A new Nielsen study shows a group of campaigns that served 10 million impressions only reached the intended target between 2 and 36% of the time.

Despite the growing emphasis on online advertising to answer the rise in online engagement among Canadians, agencies are not effectively reaching their target audiences, according to a new study from Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings.

The study analyzed the percentage of ads from 280 campaigns in Canada that reached their target audience, covering work from all of the major consumer categories.

Overall, 75% of online campaigns in Canada reached less than 10% of the country’s total population. While this seems to suggest that there’s a problem with the scope of online campaigns, the data shows that the biggest area for improvement is in campaigns failing to reach the members of their intended audiences.

The key finding in the study shows that impressions don’t always translate into ads getting to the target audience. Among a group of campaigns that all served around 10 million impressions, reach to their respective target audiences ranged anywhere from 2% to 36%.

Looking at demographics, brands appear to be doing a better job reaching some targets than others. While campaigns aimed at 25- to 54-year old males were delivered 43% of the time, women in the same range were only successfully targeted 31% of the time. Agencies seem to be better at targeting campaigns based on age, although, once again, some key segments did better than others. Ads targeted at the younger, 18- to 49-year-old audience were successful 80% of the time, compared to 54% of the time for 25- to 54-year-olds.

Language didn’t seem to have much of an impact on a campaign’s success, as the reach of English campaigns was only 2% higher than French ones. Looking at the reach by industry, the reach rates were also relatively similar. Consumer packaged goods had the highest rate of online ads reaching the desired target, with 61%, although that was not much higher than the rate for retail (57%), automotive (54%) or financial (53%). At the bottom, pharmaceutical ads reached their target 48% of the time.

The report recommends that advertisers use the insight in the study to run larger campaigns and, therefore, have a better chance at reaching the target audience. However, it also says that by looking at GRPs, they can reach more of the target audience with same budget.

As an example, Nielsen randomly selected 15 of the campaigns and gave the clients access to Nielsen OCR reports. By shifting impressions to more high-performing sites, advertisers increased their reach by an average of 18%.

Jodi Brown, director of content at MediaCom, tells MiC that her agency is already in the habit of monitoring and shifting the weight of a campaign to higher-performing sites as needed. She adds, however, that there are other metrics to monitor besides impressions to ensure a campaign is achieving its reach as planned.

“I have to say I’m surprised by these numbers and wonder which media buyers aren’t doing their jobs very well,” she says.  “It’s also important to monitor frequency, not just impressions, either by setting a frequency cap at the outset or through ongoing monitoring to ensure above-optimal frequency isn’t occurring.”

Leith Higdon, director of analytics and insights at IPG Mediabrands, says she is less surprised by the numbers but adds that reach is only one of the factors the agency looks at when trying to optimize a campaign. She says that the agency does see a correlation between impressions and reach, but part of the larger issue may lie in the kind of inventory that’s available to advertisers.

“There is a difference between preroll and banner in this analysis as well. The inventory for preroll is small in Canada and shortage can hinder reach.  This is an industry problem that will hopefully improve over time.”

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