How to Choose the Right KPI for Your Next Digital Campaign

Illustrative graphic of hands holding a map that displays common programmatic KPIs

KPIs are a yardstick of success and essential for measuring the performance of all programmatic campaigns. Knowing and understanding the most essential KPIs for programmatic campaigns will help you to plan, implement, and analyze your campaigns for the best results. 

What is a KPI?

A KPI is a quantifiable measure of performance over a specific period of time, and for a specific objective. Examples of KPIs include the number of engagements per quarter, or video completions per month. KPIs provide marketers with goals to target, milestones to gauge their progress, and insights that help teams across an organization make better decisions, and optimize for the best results. 

8 Programmatic Advertising KPIs Explained

Here are 8 common KPIs for programmatic campaigns. 

1. Impressions

Impressions measure the total number of times an ad is served through your campaign. An impression is counted each time a creative is downloaded to the user’s device, and has started to load. 

2. Clicks

The clicks metric tracks how many users clicked on your ad. Clicks help you to understand how well your target audience is responding to your ads. Combining clicks and impressions can help you calculate an actionable percentage and make informed campaign budget decisions.

3. Click-Through Rate (CTR)

A click-through rate (CTR) is a digital advertising metric that uses a ratio to show how often users who see an ad end up clicking it. CTR is the number of clicks that an ad receives, divided by the number of times that the ad is shown. CTR is typically displayed as a percentage, so you’ll multiply the resulting number by 100 to generate a percentage. 

4. Click-Through Conversion (CTC)

Click-through conversions (CTC) measure the amount of times a user sees an ad, clicks on it, and converts during that visit. CTC usually records first-time clickers, and so it’s useful for tracking conversions that happen right away, without nurturing.

5. Video Completion Rate (VCR)

Video completion rate (VCR) is a video marketing metric that measures how many users watched a video ad from start to finish. This rate helps advertisers figure out whether or not their audience is finding the content they’ve produced engaging.

6. Conversions

Conversions are measured when a user completes a particular action. This metric is unique because you’re able to customize what will constitute a conversion. 

You can calculate the conversion rate based on your specified campaign goals, like product sales or newsletter sign-ups. Your conversion rate will help you understand the overall engagement and determine which ads drive the targeted audience to take action.

7. Cost Per Completed View (CPCV)

Cost per completed view (CPCV) is an ad pricing model where marketers pay a publisher every time their video is watched from start to finish. This helps marketers target high-quality users. CPCV is calculated by dividing the budget of an ad campaign by the total number of completed views.

8. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

Cost per acquisition (CPA) is a digital marketing metric that measures the total cost of a defined goal, like a conversion. CPA is calculated by dividing the total campaign spend by the number of customers that were gained by that campaign. 

How to Choose the Right KPIs

For most programmatic campaigns, there will be a couple objectives you’re aiming to achieve. In most cases, you’ll choose several KPIs to help measure the various objectives. Here are the basic steps for choosing the right KPIs. 

Identify Your Target Audience and Their Journey

Identify the target audience for your campaign by building customer profiles. These describe everything you need to know about a specified group of customers. From there, map their customer journey.

Understanding how a customer goes from awareness and consideration to conversion and evaluation enables you to narrow your audience further. Knowing every touch point that a customer passes through before making a purchase will help inform what channels and ad formats you should leverage for the best results, as well as what KPIs will best measure the success of your campaign. 

Decide on Programmatic Campaign Goals

Knowing the goal of your campaign will shape which KPIs you choose for your campaign because your goals tell you which insights matter. For example, you may want to pull a geo report to understand which of the locations you’re targeting are contributing to the highest level of performance.

Establish Your Campaign Concept

A campaign concept is crucial to creating winning programmatic campaigns. It’s what ties together all elements of your campaign, and motivates your audience to complete the desired action. A strong campaign concept will resonate with your audience, tell a compelling story, and create brand recognition and loyalty.

Determine Which KPIs Are Most Valuable

Analyze your business goals, campaign goals, and customer journey mapping to choose the KPIs that will be most valuable. You want to choose KPIs that will provide the insights you’re looking for. For example, if the goal of your campaign is newsletter sign-ups, tracking CTR will be important because it will give you insight into how many users were curious enough to click your ad, but may not have signed up for your newsletter. 

Choose Just a Few KPIs

It can be tempting to track several KPIs, but actually you’ll want to keep focused on just a few. When you track too many programmatic KPIs, you can end up overloaded with data. With too much data, it’s easy to become confused, and finding accurate trends or insights can become challenging. Instead, focus on the key KPIs that are most important to your campaign and brand.

Leverage Brand Lift to Measure Impact

Metrics like impressions and click-throughs are crucial for campaign management, but you’ll also want to align brand messaging and strategy beyond those metrics. A tactic that marketers are increasingly leveraging to gain audience insights and identify the impact of their campaigns is running brand lift studies.

A brand lift study measures the impact of your campaigns across all your programmatic channels. It provides insight into the consumer sentiment and brand affinity of people who have been exposed to your media. 

It can be used to measure the impact of upper funnel campaigns on your consumers’ perception of your brand, but it’s also effective when it comes to mid- to lower funnel campaigns, for measuring consideration or purchase intent. 

Get Started With the Right KPIs 

Your KPIs will be part of your campaign reporting. It’s commonly assumed that reporting happens once a campaign has ended. While this is true (you’re able to pull post-campaign analytics at the end of your campaign), the groundwork for great campaign reporting starts during the planning stage of your campaign.

The strongest optimizations are data driven and should be evaluated throughout the duration of a campaign by measuring your KPIs. When programmatic campaign reporting is set up, it will provide you with insights that are necessary to drive increased performance. 

Request a demo to learn more about running digital campaigns with StackAdapt.

Spencer King
Spencer King

VP of Client Services


Spencer joined StackAdapt in 2018 as employee 54. Before joining StackAdapt, he spent about 4 years at OMD as a Platform Logistics Specialist, working with clients like Nissan, Infiniti, Mercedes, and McDonalds.