Do KPIs depend on your campaign objective?

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kpi-depend-on-campaign-objectiveDo KPIs depend on your campaign objective? Is the click through, the cost per acquisition or other metric a relevant KPI (key performance indicator) regardless of your campaign objective?

What do you mean “campaign objective»?

Ad campaigns and marketing campaigns come in a variety of favors. That is, they can meet a large variety of specific objectives. Their goals are not always to drive sales.

Campaign objectives, in the digital world come in three broad families and can be expressed in many different ways.

  • Awareness: the goal here is anything to do with getting your brand name out there, creating or increasing awareness, association a brand with a company or product to a brand, remaining top of mind, etc.
  • Engagement: the goal here is the middle ground between awareness and direct response. We target people who already know your brand and can move on to convince consumers that yours is indeed the right brand for them, convince or inform them about specific brand attributes or change people’s minds about some aspect or other. Here we need for the consumer to spend time with our message (ad) for them to get what it is we want them to get. We want to move them along their path to purchase.
  • Direct response: The goal here is to get people to act. We want them to visit your site, to buy now, to subscribe to your newsletter, download your app, visit your store, etc.

Ok, but what about KPIs?

So what about KPIs right? Isn’t the CPA the ultimate metric?

Sure, some metrics are nice to track across all campaigns; however depending on your campaign objective, that metric will look very different. It’ll be different because of how your campaign is executed. If you execute an awareness campaign, your CPA will be very expensive – because you’re not really asking people to buy now. It’s similar for engagement campaign, but here the CPA will be a little lower. It will be at its ideal low for a Direct Response campaign.

Below you will find various KPIs that are actually relevant to each campaign objective type. It is important to assign a relevant KPI to your campaign based on your objective for several reasons.


  • It encourages you to select pricing models, ad formats, editorial environments, platforms and ad targeting options that will best reach your target audience with your campaign message at the right time and in the right frame of mind.
  • It encourages media suppliers and trading desk operators to optimize your campaign on your defined KPI, increasing performance on what matters for this campaign’s success.
    • Too often we see campaigns with KPI that is not aligned to its objective. This causes everyone to optimize against a KPI which ultimately will not achieve your initial goal.

This is a little complex and confusing, there are too many options

Yes, there are a great many variables to consider when creating and optimizing an ad campaign. However, determining the right KPI for each individual campaign should not become a headache.

When deciding to invest your marketing dollars in an ad campaign, you need to keep in mind this is an investment and not an expense. For it to really be an investment, you need to know what you expect, or hope, to get out of it as a return on your investment.

Are you willing to spend money for people to come and buy quicker or more often? Do you want more people to know you even exist? Do you need people to understand that your service is also great in other cases?

Whatever your objective, which 1 metric would spell success of your campaign? Which one would indicate your investment has yielded a nice return?

If your objective was to generate sales faster (direct response), you’d want to compare weekly or daily sales before, during and after the campaign to ensure you actually drove more sales than would otherwise have occurred.

If your objective is to get people to buy more often (direct response), then you might want to look at the level of repeat visitors to your site and expect it to rise. You’d also expect sales to slowly grow over time, beyond your campaign.

If your objective is to get people to understand something specific (engagement), then you’d look for increased traffic in that particular content section or page on your site. You’d want to see increased search traffic for those keywords. You’d want to hear from your customer service time that that specific element is less and less being asked about because people get it now. Inversely you might want to be asked more and more about it to indicate people have heard about it and want to confirm or know even more.

Whatever your objective, there is at least 1 KPI, if not 2 or 3 what would indicate you are achieving your objective.

What about tracking all this?

I wouldn’t go so far as say this is the most important aspect of this post. It is equally as important as determining the right objective, and the right KPI. Neither will matter if you cannot track their performance.

There are a great many bits of data that you can track either through an adserver, analytics, Ecommerce, CRM and other platforms. Other elements you’ll want to manually track over time, such as questions to customer service about specific brand aspects.

Whichever KPI you plan to use, ensure you have a historical data set to compare it with. The only way to know if your efforts had an impact is to compare your performance before, during and after your campaign. Keep on tracking that metric beyond the campaign to see the longer lasting effects of your ad investment.

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