Today’s ads can feature application-like functionality, but with every layer of complexity comes new data that begs to be interpreted.

When reviewing complex metrics, it’s helpful to focus on metrics that align with your marketing goals. Consider the following varied reasons for running a campaign:

  • Improve brand awareness and recall
  • Introduce a new product
  • Direct response and lead generation

We often fixate on the big 3--clickthrough, interaction rate, and engagement rate--but depending on our campaign goals, we may be able to better judge campaign success from different key metrics.

Whether you goal is to get face-time with your audience, to drive web traffic, or to move units, here are 5 other display metrics that can tell us a whole lot about our ads and customers.


Time on Unit

Since engagement rate [Total Engagements] / [Total Impressions] and interaction rate [Total Interactions] / [Total Impressions] are a function of impressions, it may tell you more about the success of your media buy, while Time on Unit tells you about the effectiveness of your ad to deliver its full message once you’ve obtained viewer interest.

When judging Time on Unit, do it in the context of how long a full ad experience takes for that ad, which is going to vary widely from ad-to-ad depending on if it contains videos, animations, tabbed content, and so forth.


Scroll (Feed e.g. Twitter, within Content box, etc)

The often overlooked Scroll is actually a terrific metric to gauge content effectiveness when you want more detail than interaction rate or time on unit can provide you. If your audience is scrolls down your social feed or within your embedded whitepaper, you can assume what you presented them perked their interest. For instance, this can be useful to determine if a Twitter feed is getting interest.


Navigate (Arrows, Tab Click, Grid Button Click, Custom Button Click)

Like scroll, navigate shows an interest in seeing more. Keep an eye on navigation for ads that have lots of content tabs or panels, to see how effective your creative is at getting the audience to explore beyond the initial state of the ad.


Shares to social media are the ultimate sign of a successful campaign. Take a good look when your ad content is noteworthy, but don’t fixate on this holy grail of viral marketing if your other metrics are performing well. When shares are lacking, remove those buttons to de-clutter your ads.

Video Play (1/4, ½, ¾, Full)

When including video in an ad, determine at what point the video has delivered enough of its message to be successful. Then review video playtime metrics. For instance, if your product is only introduced after 7 seconds in a video, look to playtime metrics that exceed that duration for confirmation that the content is working.


Let’s See This in Action


Publisher running on-site content ads



To educate customers with branded ads on a publisher’s site that feature either content from elsewhere on the site, or sponsored content paired with site content.


Key Metrics:

Time on Unit, Scroll, Navigate



Often the goal of ad-sponsored content on a publisher site is to educate and interest an advanced audience. Clickthrough doesn’t work well here since most viewers won't want to navigate away. Interaction and engagement rates can be helpful, but they don’t give you an answer the most important questions. Who actually read all this copy? Look to scrolls and navigates as indicators of content success.




The ad above featured three content tabs. The Nav Tab interaction shows that over 15 days, only 10 times did someone click to see the content in the second and third tabs. 

The metrics above show an ad that actually performed quite well in from an engagement and interaction rate point of view, but the tabbed content wasn’t getting much interest. Since there are three tabs of content, a full ad experience would initiate 2 nav tab interactions. This might call for changes to the creative, such as:

  • Automatically cycle through the tabs holding for a few seconds each, then stopping on the main one
  • Increase visual contrast in the names of each tab, or make them change color on mouse-over
  • Re-label tabs with more compelling titles to promote exploration
  • Add instructions to the ad, such as “Click to explore!”
  • Remove the excess content entirely for more focus on what's working