Why are conversions so “low” on Programmatic Campaigns?

April 4, 2017

Brand managers typically focus on sales figures, and so are only really interested in conversions, Returns on Investment (ROI) for their media campaigns. With Programmatic gaining a foothold in the Nigerian market, it’s important for brand managers to understand how to measure display campaign performance.They may hear of a campaign with millions of impressions, a 1% click-through rate, and wonder ‘where is all my budget going?’


A typical brand manager probably first encountered Search in his Digital Journey, and then grew into Social Advertising, so it’s plausible that his expectations are premised on the metrics for measuring performance on those channels.

With Search, the process is similar to a customer walking into a cafe looking for a healthy smoothie. He knows what he wants, just not where to get it. If he comes across your ad whilst searching for a solution, he is more likely to click on your ad if the search sequence provided sensible results. As such, ads served on that channel would have a greater conversion rate than situations when a customer is going about his day and randomly stumbles across your ad.

A programmatic campaign is therefore like a mobile cafe on a street corner.


Programmatic aims to put that mobile cafe in the ‘Right street corner’, figure out what the local market wants to see, and reach out to passers-by. This vendor would have the potential to sell a lot more drinks, but it takes effort (Reach). A lot of people will walk past the cart (impressions), compared to those folks who stop to inquire (Click-through rate). When they do stop, they have to trust his brand proposition to convert, which could range from the quality of the product, the presentation, to the environment. This is how programmatic display advertising works. A number of factors come into play before conversions can be achieved.

In order to start seeing improvements on campaign performance, there are a few things brand managers  should consider:


In order to get better insights on the campaign performance, a learning period needs to be provided for, to enable the programmatic algorithm sort through the ‘Big data’ it is being fed before it can start giving actionable insight.

This might of course mean little to no conversions in the early stages, but with improved insight and the necessary adjustments, the campaign should soon be giving better conversions. Start wide, and gradually refine with insights gotten from the campaign.


Brand managers focused on sales are more familiar with metrics for retargeting, as these are efforts aimed at converting the customer already further along in his purchase cycle (lower funnel). However, programmatic can reach both ‘prospects’ and ‘customers’ at various stages in the customer journey, and as such analysing campaigns using lower funnel metrics would give a skewered view of campaign reports. Reach campaigns call for different metrics, which retargeting metrics do not address.



Since programmatic can address both upper and lower funnel, campaigns should be measured with this fact in mind.ll

When measuring conversions, brand managers should factor in cross channel conversions. Programmatic display ads aimed at upper funnel customers (for instance) contribute to other channel conversions, such as search. This approach would give brand managers a holistic view when measuring performance.

In addition to cross channel conversions, view-through conversions should also be assessed. This is because some customers view ads but do not click on them. They may however go on to open a new tab and search for the brand or product seen in the ad, and convert from there.


The quality of the Ad may also hamper conversions on programmatic. Ad messaging and visuals are very important for a campaign’s performance. A boring visual is less likely to grab the attention of a customer during his Customer Journey, neither will one that a user cannot view/load on certain devices. Brand managers should therefore pay more attention to the format, creativity, and context when preparing campaign Ads.

Brand websites

Programmatic with its advanced targeting and retargeting features can drive traffic to a brand’s website or the necessary call to action, but the conversion will be determined by the site itself.

If the landing page isn’t up to scratch, this might result in lower conversions. The campaign efforts should cut across all channels used by the brand in its marketing mix as well as the different stages of the customer journey.

Call to action

Likewise, if the process involved in completing the call to action is too long, this could equally contribute to low conversion rates.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 20.05.25

With the level of patience customers have when browsing, especially when factors such as device, cost of data, available time, come into play, the need to keep call to actions short becomes evident. Brands can use tools such as click to USSD, click to subscribe, click to download, etc.

With these insights, brand managers can start optimising better and measuring improved campaign performance.

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