There’s no getting around it. If you're paying for ads, you need to know whether they’re working. And that means you have to know which ad performance metrics to monitor.

By watching the right metrics, you can learn everything you need to know about your ads and whether they are hitting your KPI. But how do you know which metrics matter and which are just white noise?

There are hundreds of digital advertising performance metrics. In this post, we explore the seven most important ad performance metrics and what you should expect in ad performance reports.



For help getting your ads in the right places, in front of your target audience, reach out to the world-class ad performance team at Playwire.

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Gold Standard Ad Performance Metrics

The ad performance metrics that matter most to your brand may be unique to you, but there are a few gold-standard advertising metrics that set the tone for ads in most industries: viewability, video completion rate, and click-through rate (CTR).

Let’s review the first three most important ad performance metrics.

1. Viewability

You want people to actually see your ad. Otherwise, what was the point? This is what viewability measures in digital advertising. 

What is viewability?

Viewability as an ad performance metric measures whether the ad was seen and for how long users saw it. The industry standard for a display ad to be considered “viewable” is that at least half of the ad must be visible on the user’s screen for one second or more.

What is video viewability?

For video ads to be considered "viewable" the standard is that the video ad is 50% in-view for at least 2 seconds.

According to Google, the average publisher viewability for video ads is 66.1%, and 49% for display ads.

Display Ad Viewability Benchmarks

Average publisher viewability for display ads is 49%.

VideoAd Viewability Benchmarks

Average publisher viewability for video ads is 66.1%.

Related: Learn several strategies for improving ad viewability here.

2. Video Completion Rate

Video Completion Rate (VCR) is an essential video ad metric. That is, how many people watched the video ad from start to finish?

What is video completion rate?

Video Completion Rate is the percentage of people who began watching your video ad that actually completed and watched the entire video ad.

Video Completion Rate is often presented as a percentage in an ad performance report. The formula is the number of video completions divided by the number of times the video was started. This metric might also be listed simply as “completed views” or something similar. 

However this metric is presented to you, the point is to understand how many people are becoming fully engaged in your video ads. The higher this percentage is, the better.

Average video completion rates (VCR) have been declining slightly and were at 84% in Q2 2020, according to the Extreme Reach Video Benchmarks Report.

Video Completion Rate Benchmarks

Average video completion rates in Q2 2020 were at 84%.

3. Click-Through Rate

CTR is an oldie but a goodie. Advertisers and publishers have been monitoring this metric for years — basically since some of the first online banner ads were ever published.

What is Click-Through Rate?

CTR is simply the number of ad impressions that result in a click on the ad divided by the total number of impressions.

This metric gives you an idea of how many people are finding your ad useful or enticing.

What is a good CTR? Over time, internet users have become less likely to click on ads, and CTRs have dropped as a result. In 2021, a “good” CTR will vary, depending on the type of content, the product or service being advertised, and the targeted demographic. 

Click-Through Rate Benchmarks

A benchmark CTR for standard banners might be 0.20%, while the average video CTR typically sits closer to 2% on the higher end.

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Other Digital Ad Metrics to Watch

Viewability, video completion rate, and CTR are the gold standard ad performance metrics to monitor in your ad performance reports. However, many other metrics and KPIs could be important to your business and can provide valuable insight. We discuss a few of these below.

4. Cost Per Acquisition

The cost per acquisition (CPA) of a particular ad tells you how much it costs you, in total, to acquire a single paying customer. To calculate CPA for an ad, you divide the total ad spend by the total number of paying customers you acquired as a result of the ad.

5. Purchases

While your CPA can tell you about actions users took on the ad itself, you also want to measure the actions they take on your website, such as purchases. 

Depending on what the ad is selling, you could measure purchases as an ad performance metric in a variety of ways. For example, you can set up goal completions in Google Analytics that tie in with traffic your site gains from particular ads. And one of those goals can be an actual purchase or even someone adding something to their digital shopping cart.

6. Demographic Information

In advertising, demographics matter. Most advertisers have a target audience in mind for every ad they send out into the world. And you should make sure your ads are actually reaching those demographics.

If this is an important metric to you, your ad provider should include this information in your ad performance reports. This is usually expressed as a percentage of the viewers who were “in demo.” For example, if your ad reached 1 million people and 600,000 of them were in the age, location, income level, or another demographic group you wanted to target, your in-demo percentage would be 60%.

7. Time Spent

“Time spent” is an ad performance metric that tells you a lot about viewer engagement rate. It’s similar to Video Completion Rate (VCR), but it doesn’t require the user to actually complete the video to count toward the time-spent percentage. 

This metric answers one simple question: How much time did people actually spend viewing the ad? The more time spent viewing your ad, the more engagement your ad generated. 

Time spent has grown in popularity as an ad performance metric in recent years. Some in the advertising industry see it as an alternative to the more traditional route of selling impressions — a process that is often plagued by ad fraud.

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What to Look for in Ad Performance Reports

Ad performance reports vary from provider to provider, but you should expect two key reports: weekly reports and wrap-up reports.

Weekly reports should detail the financial analytics behind your current ad campaign performance. How much have you spent? Is spending on track? The answers to these and similar questions should be clear in every weekly ad performance report you receive.

Wrap-up reports detail the total performance of an ad or ad campaign after it has ended. Expect high levels of detail for every ad performance metric you and the provider agreed to monitor. 

Examples of advertising metrics to look for in wrap-up reports include delivered impressions, ad clicks, CTR, viewability, completed views, video completion rate, invalid traffic, and actualized ad spend.

Get Best-in-the-Industry Ad Performance Reporting

Ad performance reporting is an essential part of the deal in an advertising campaign. That’s why the team at Playwire focuses on providing the best, most detailed ad performance reports in the industry.

Our ad campaigns perform. And our ad performance reports prove it. To get started with Playwire, contact us online.

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