advertising is currently suffering from growing pains. Online marketers are digging themselves out of the click-through ghetto, but the best way to measure the effectiveness of display ads online is still unclear.

This week, web measurement firm Compete launched a new service called Ad Impact that tracks what users do after being exposed to online ads.

It gets to a point about the impact of display advertising: if click-through rates aren’t working to measure their effectiveness, what will?

Analyzing more than 75 campaigns since the
beginning of the year, Compete found display ad exposure increases
traffic to marketer sites and boosts brand search. 

Ad Impact tracks user behavior in three
categories: branded site visitation; search phrases; visits to rival
and third-party sites and social media; and campaign profile data
including demographic, impression and frequency reporting.

Michael Rucker, product marketing manager, YouTube and Google: “Dozens
of our advertising partners take advantage of this research and
we have been impressed with the metrics reported. Knowing that your
campaign resulted in an exposed audience being 700% more likely to
search for your product is information a savvy marketer needs to know,
and Ad Impact has allowed us to provide our clients with these

While click-through rates have proved a powerful measure of search advertising, for display they just don’t work. Web surfers may not click on display ads the way they click on search, but those ads still have a positive effect for brands.

Last month the Online Publishers Association released a study showing people exposed to 80 brand
campaigns on 200 popular sites had a greater likelihood of visiting
those brand’s sites and searching related terms than those who didn’t
see them.

Meanwhile, at the end of last year, comScore data from the study “How Online Advertising Works: Whither the Click?” showed that click-through rates don’t show what benefits come from brand advertising online.

But the question remains: What does work for display? Compete’s new tool helps find useful aggregation of post campaign reach and analysis, but it’s still a campaign wide measure.

There are ways of diversifying content to find out what works and where. Marketers can run different ads with different publishers and roll out campaigns slower to see the impact of specific ads on sales. Or to add action items that are specific to particular ads on different sites as a method of tracking.

But this all gets back to the same issue. Measuring brand build, both offline and online, is simply a more difficult process than direct marketing and search. And one that is still being worked out.

According to Joelle Joelle Kaufman, VP of
marketing at Adify: “ad effectiveness studies should be part of any branded campaign. I think you’re going to see comscore and Nielsen copy this. Marketers want to see a lot more than ‘here’s my click.'”