How Do You Read a Digital Report?

by The Campaign Workshop

A woman and a man looking at an iPad.

Demystifying Your Political Campaign’s Digital Report

Now more than ever, digital programs are integral parts of almost any political campaign and learning how to read a digital report is crucial. Understanding digital reports not only allows you to understand how your digital campaign is performing, but also allows you to make optimizations to ensure that you are making as large of an impact as possible.

What Do the Metrics Mean?

Depending on who is running your digital program and what platform you are running on, digital reports will vary from each other. Below are metrics that you will most frequently see in digital reports:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ads were displayed on a screen
  • Clicks: The number of clicks on your ads
  • Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of times people saw your ad and clicked on it (clicks ¸ impressions)
  • Video completions: The number of times your video was played to 100%
  • Video completion rate (VCR): The percentage of times people saw your video ad and watched it to completion
  • CPM: Cost per 1,000 impressions
  • Reach: The number of people who saw your ads at least once
  • Frequency: The average number of times each person saw your ad


What Are Benchmarks to Keep in Mind?

Benchmarks vary from platform to platform and from client to client, and can also change over time. Below is a rough guide to help you evaluate your campaign’s performance based on a digital report:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): 0.10%
  • Video completion rate (VCR): 
    • 15-second ads: 73-76%
    • 30-second ads: 70-74%
  • CPM: 
    • Programmatic 
      • Video: $25
      • Display: $8
    • Facebook/Instagram
      • Video: $12.50
      • Display: $2.35
    • Twitter: $6.50


What Might Cause You to Change Course Mid-Campaign?

When looking at a digital report, you can use the benchmarks we’ve listed above as points of reference to measure how well your campaign is performing and decide whether or not you need to make changes to your campaign. However, it’s important to note that if a digital report indicates your ads are performing slightly below these benchmarks, it may not always mean you should change something right away. Campaigns can take a while to ramp up, so if you are running a longer time, it can be helpful to wait a couple weeks before doing anything so that you can get a better understanding of how the ads are performing. An additional thing to note is that, depending on where your ads are running and what your audience is, your metrics may vary (i.e., ads targeted to younger audiences tend to get higher engagement on average than ads targeted to older audiences).

Below are some red flags in a digital report that might prompt you to change course mid-campaign. However, keep in mind that the metrics you care about should be tied to your overall goal(s) (i.e., if your goal is awareness, you may not be as focused on the CTR).

  • If the CTR on one or more of your static ads is below .10%, and especially if it is below .07%.
  • If one or more of your video ads are receiving a video completion rate below the average VCRs listed above.
  • If your CPM is significantly higher than the benchmarks we listed above.
  • If you aren’t serving enough impressions or spending enough. When you set up a campaign, you set up a goal for how many impressions you will serve or how much money you will spend. If you are seeing that you aren’t on track to serve or spend in full, you may want to consider opening up your audience to target more people with ads (if this is an option).
  • If your ads are receiving a high volume of negative feedback on social. This doesn’t always mean you should change course (for example, if you’re running a negative ad and supporters of your opponent are reacting poorly). However, if you’re running an ad and people seem to be reacting poorly across the board (not just hardline supporters of your opponent), you may want to consider removing that ad from rotation.


How to Change Course

If a digital report indicates that one or more of your ads are performing poorly, there are a few options:

  • Creatives: If you notice some creatives are performing better than others, you may want to shift money around or weight the better-performing creatives heavier than the others so that they are served more often. If one or more creatives is performing especially poorly, you may want to remove those creatives from rotation entirely and just serve the better performing ads or try to swap in a new ad in its place.
  • Platforms: Another option is to move money between platforms. If you notice that your ads are performing significantly better on one platform compared to the other, you may want to move more money into the better-performing platform or pause the poorly performing platform entirely.
  • Tactics/audiences: If you are targeting several different audiences or using multiple tactics, you can always pause one tactic/audience or move money from one audience/tactic to the better performing one. Additionally, if you are not serving enough impressions or spending as much as you would like, you could open up your audience if that is an option for you.
  • Campaign:  If your ads seem to be performing poorly across the board, it is always an option to pause your campaign and re-evaluate. While this may not be an option for campaigns that have a hard deadline, such as an election date, it can be done for campaigns that are not tied to a strict timeline.

Looking for more political campaign tips? Check out our best practices here