A million media impressions! Uh... is that a lot?
May 23, 2013 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Help me calibrate my "media impressions" scale. I'm frequently the recipient of internal company memos that describe the success of various marketing campaigns in terms of their number of media impressions. The numbers are typically in the millions or tens of millions. My problem is have no idea what is considered to be large campaign, either in absolute terms or relative to the size of the market being targeted.

For folks who work with these numbers every day, where is your dividing line for classifying a campaign as "big"? I know that a precise answer is impossible and am just looking for order-of-magnitude kind of stuff.

Or to put it another way, if my target market contains X people, what fraction (or multiple) of X would I need in media impressions to expect a noticeable impact on sales.
posted by FishBike to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm honestly not trying to muddy the waters, but I do work with 'impression" numbers daily and have an insight that I think you should consider.

Not all impressions are created equal.

10,000 impressions from Google paid search ads, where the ad is caused to fire from a query against a specific term, are likely much more valuable than 100,000 impressions on the Yahoo! Celebrity news page -- regardless of your target. The intent implied by the Google search makes those impressions (much) more valuable to the marketer.

What is big?
In my world, big generally constitutes budget and/or reach. Reach is the gross number of individuals exposed to your message.
posted by bricksNmortar at 9:40 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't work with these numbers every day, but I frequently work with people who work with these numbers every day.

"Impressions" is not a measure of the success of the marketing campaign; it's a measure of how much was spent: a million ad views is worth zero dollars if it doesn't result in any sales. (My understanding is that if someone's talking up their impressions rather than their clickthroughs or conversions or (best) actual sales, it means the campaign was not a success.)

Ad clickthrough rates average around 0.1% (or at least they were in 2011); therefore 1000 impressions = 1 person interested enough in your ad to click on it. So 1,000,000 impressions is 1,000 people clicking the ad.

How many of those thousand will convert to actual sales depends on a lot of factors, obviously, and reliable averages are hard to find; if you take Google Shopping as a reasonable benchmark then you're talking about three percent. So a million "impressions" could be expected to bring in thirty paying customers.

Tens of millions impressions == not that big, in other words.
posted by ook at 10:24 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I don't know whether that Search Engine Watch site's numbers are accurate, incidentally, but theirs were the least scammy-looking numbers I could find. Conversion estimates elsewhere ranged from 10% down to well below 1%. I suspect this is the sort of thing where it depends so much on the particular market that an average is going to be more or less meaningless.)
posted by ook at 10:31 AM on May 23, 2013

Also watch out for "Twitter impressions" by which people really mean "potential Twitter impressions" by which they really mean "adding up the follower counts of everybody who follows us." Because of how Twitter works, most followers will never see your message, making this number about as useful as counting the number of cows in a liter of bull semen.
posted by troyer at 11:14 AM on May 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

The scale of 1,000,000 impressions also depends on your target-

1,000,000 impressions against US Adults 18-49? Not a lot.

1,000,000 against technology influencers at medium-large enterprises (or some similar niche-y target)? Potentially quite valuable, likely represents multiple contacts among members of the group in question. It also depends, as troyer points out, entirely on how impressions are counted, and whether or not target data is even collected, or collected accurately (in Twitter's case, it isn't).

Of course, it also depends on what medium you are using and over what time period. 1 MM impressions against a mainstream US television audience? That's a couple of weeks of moderate activity at most. 1 MM impressions of traditional banner advertising on major portals? That's barely a week. 1 MM impressions of highly targeted pre-roll video advertising? That could last a couple of months. 1 MM search impressions? That's entirely dependent on search behaviour- could be anything.

To determine how many impressions in a particular medium will actually influence your sales, you would need a period of your actual sales data without advertising, and then a period with. Assuming very few other variables (which you should really never do), you can sort of look at the data and guess. However, to really determine the impact of media activity, most advertisers do statistical regressions to identify things like "breakthrough" and "wearout". This is actually a pretty big money business for a number of 3rd party analytics firms (Nielsen, Hudson River Group, Ipsos, etc.). You could probably by generic norms for your category for somewhat less money, but they would not take into account the specifics of your products, the media you ran, the time during which you ran it, etc.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:06 PM on May 23, 2013

« Older Food...for a kid...on a plane.   |   Help me get to know the American Southwest. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.