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The Value of View Through Conversions

My personal experience with View Through Conversions (VTCs) is that they provide very little real-world lift in sales, and are more likely just poaching attribution from other channels. So I almost always give VTCs a value of zero and ignore them.

The truth probably lies somewhere in-between. For lower funnel remarketing campaigns VTCs probably provide close to zero value, while for truly brand-unaware audiences, the value is somewhere between 0 and 100%.

If you are one of those who wants to believe in the value of VTCs, you should calculate the true value of VTCs by running a placebo A/B test. Below is just such a test that we ran on the AdRoll network back in 2013:

Placebo A/B Tests to Measure View Through Conversions

Display Network A/B Test

How to Setup a Placebo A/B Test

You will likely need assistance from your ad platform or ad agency to properly run this sort of test. It is usually difficult to have a blank or psa ad approved.

  1. Create 2 separate (but equal) non-overlapping campaigns
  2. Campaign A will serve your “normal” ad
    Campaign B will serve a Public Service Announcement ad
  3. Run both campaigns for a few weeks
  4. Calculate VTC “lift” as follows:
Valid VTC Formula

Real Life Example

Campaign A
(Real Ad)
Campaign B
(PSA Ad)
Data from a real world A/B test performed in 2013 on the AdRoll network

VTC “Lift” = (329 – 261) / 329 = 20%

In this real life example, the irrelevant PSA Ads still managed to generate 80% of the View Through Conversion volume that the real ad generated. To be more clear, 261 people saw an ad to adopt a cat, and later went to to purchase a boating license.

So 80% of VTCs can be given a value of zero. Of the remaining 20%, more analysis is needed to figure out exactly how they influenced sales. The Real Ad did seem to generate more VTCs than the PSA ad, but the real question is if those VTCs resulted in extra incremental sales or were they simply tracking sales generated by another channel such as e-mail?

Real Life Example #2: Facebook

A few years later we ran a similar Placebo A/B test on Facebook with the help of SocialCode. Unfortunately I no longer have the data for this test, but the end results was that there was ZERO lift from VTCs, and the PSA ad actually outperformed the real ads from a VTC standpoint! (People seeing cats were buying more boating licenses than the people seeing ads for a boating license)

So how should you value View Through Conversions?

Here are my recommendations:

  • Give View Through Conversions a value of ZERO. Unless you can prove otherwise via an A/B test. This is especially true for re-marketing campaigns where the visitors have previously visited your site, and may be actively engaged in checkout when the ad is shown.
  • Run your own Placebo A/B test. If someone insists on using VTCs in performance metrics, then you should insist on running an A/B test to calculate the true value. You should run at least two tests: One for remarketing audiences and another for brand-unaware audiences.
  • Be cautious and skeptical of anyone pushing the value of VTCs especially if they are an ad agency or ad platform that will benefit from including the extra VTCs in their performance metrics.