Why CTR & VTR Are Dead Metrics in Programmatic Display

Marc Pritchard now knows it. Any serious marketer (P &G) wouldn’t be caught dead using click-through-rate or view-through-rate in programmatic display. CTR and VTR are rubbish.

Here’s why:


A simple formula of clicks divided by views

Click: The Numerator

Clicks are massively overstated at least 50% because of botnet click fraud.

Thus, if the numerator (clicks) is wrong, it throws off CTR wildly.

100 clicks/10,000 views = 0.01

50 clicks/10,000 views = 0.005

>> By the error that botnet click fraud creates, the difference of real CTR is 2x.

That’s just the numerator…

Impressions: The Denominator

“Impressions” are not actually viewable…and in order to have a valid click-through-rate from a human, impressions need to be viewable (in other words, how can a human click on an ad if she can’t see it).

Impressions, are simply auction wins (this is how the IAB defines an impression: when the auction is actually won and the vendor got the right to serve the display ad).

In programmatic display, however, 68% of impressions are not viewable (C3 Metrics data since 2013; comScore cites 69% in programmatic).

Because impressions have to be viewable to have a valid click-through rate, the denominator (views) is wildly thrown off.

100 clicks/10,000 views = 0.01

100 clicks/3,200 views = 0.03125

>> By the error of viewability versus impressions, the difference in the real CTR is 3x.

That’s the error in the denominator.

The fraction is wrong in both clicks and impressions.

The problem is, you don’t know if your clicks are wrong, or your views are wrong…so the data calculating the most basic metric in display: is now rubbish.


View-through-rate is the metric of last decade. Just because a retargeting tag is present, is only an indication that the person went to the website, and a vendor slapped a retargeting cookie on them.

VTR is based on the “impression.”

But an impression has nothing to do with viewability. Again, impressions, are simply auction wins (this is how the IAB defines an impression: when the auction is actually won and the vendor bought the right to serve the display ad).

VTR does, however, require a cookie be dropped.

Because cookie drops have nothing to do with viewability, it’s like driving a car without your gas tank
“full” indicator never working.

Simply search “nested iframes cookie bombing” to get an in-depth explanation of how cookies are dropped all the time without a display ad ever being displayed.

As one CMO said, “if I’m getting a 4,000% ROI by way of view-through conversions, I’d be swimming in hundred dollar bills and driving gold Rolls Royces.”

View-through-conversions are the metrics for amateur marketers.

The Answer?

Yes, it’s self-serving.

But attribution at a user level which has built-in viewability, fraud controls, false positive controls, which also fractionalizes all media in an AWACS-like platform is the answer.

One referee.

One referee that’s not distracted by garbage data or garbage claims.

One referee that can model accurately and fast.

One referee that delivers a 3x ROI for the investment in that referee.

One referee that allows CMO’s to keep their job longer and have their budgets raised 30%.

A referee that’s not owned by a media company.

A referee that has instant replay.

A referee that cares about making the right call.

A referee trusted by CFOs.

A referee relied upon by CMO’s.

Let’s play ball.