@andrewchen

Get the newsletter · 2018 essays (PDF) · Featured · Recent

Quora: Will CPE (Cost Per Engagement) advertising ever take off?

Will CPE (Cost Per Engagement) advertising ever take off?
I doubt it – the reason is that it’s targeting metrics at the kind of marketers that don’t care too much about metrics.

Broadly speaking, there’s two kind of marketers in the world – a ton could be written about this, so I’ll just provide some sweeping generalizations:

Direct response marketers are companies that are typically very focused on ROI when they buy advertising – often these include companies you’ve never heard of in ecommerce, online dating, financial services, etc., where it’s easy to calculate the value of a customer and they are primarily getting their traffic through paid marketing channels. They like to back everything out to ROI by comparing lifetime value to cost per customer, and if not that, then at least cost-per-action or some similarly concrete metric.

In many cases, these kinds of marketers prefer search marketing, email marketing, telesales, and other things where it’s easy to quantify what’s going on – they stay away from Super Bowl ads though. They prefer CPA and CPC versus CPM or sponsorships.

Brand marketers are companies you’ve heard of and have seen a lot of advertising for – they are typically targeting a large consumer base, they want to position their products differently relative to their competition and don’t have great ways to quantify the value of a customer. For example, Coca-Cola doesn’t know the LTV of a customer nor what the cost-per-customer looks like for a billboard ad they’ve bought.

For these guys, they are used to hiring big ad agencies to help them advertise on billboards, television, the front page of Yahoo, etc. They may buy search marketing, but have different goals than ROI. (For example, they may just want the top ad, and don’t care too much about ROI)

Why CPE is a weird metric for both DR and brands
The reason why cost-per-engagement is a weird metric is that ROI-focused marketers (that is, direct response marketers), don’t care about “engagement.” They want to know if people are going to buy, and if their media spend is going to be profitable.

As a result, the “E” part of CPE is really only a part that brands care about. And yet, they don’t care that much about CPE because they aren’t focused on the cost of the campaign as the #1 priority. Instead, it’s more important where the ads are being placed, how strong the ad creative is being used, etc.

One scenario to demonstrate this: If they could buy the front page of YouTube, even if that had a higher CPE, a brand advertiser would be happier with that than being shown in random footers of YouTube (the “remnant”) even at a lower CPE. They are looking to establish their brand, not optimize their spend.

What will be prevalent instead?
I think even with the advent of lots of ad opportunities on social sites, the dominate business model will still be CPM/sponsorships for brand advertisers, and CPC/CPA for direct response. Basically, nothing much will change.

If it turns out that CPE correlates to CPA/CPC, then DR marketers will end up liking it.

Also, CPE might turn into a secondary metric that you use alongside really strong placement of ads- maybe as a way to establish a bonus or upside on the campaign, but I don’t think it’ll ever happen that the dominant form of advertising on the web will be that ad agencies will put in a CPE “bid” into self-serve systems :)

I answered this question on Quora – more great answers over there.

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Views expressed in “content” (including posts, podcasts, videos) linked on this website or posted in social media and other platforms (collectively, “content distribution outlets”) are my own and are not the views of AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) or its respective affiliates. AH Capital Management is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any special skill or training. The posts are not directed to any investors or potential investors, and do not constitute an offer to sell -- or a solicitation of an offer to buy -- any securities, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment.

The content should not be construed as or relied upon in any manner as investment, legal, tax, or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any charts provided here are for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, I have not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. The content speaks only as of the date indicated.

Under no circumstances should any posts or other information provided on this website -- or on associated content distribution outlets -- be construed as an offer soliciting the purchase or sale of any security or interest in any pooled investment vehicle sponsored, discussed, or mentioned by a16z personnel. Nor should it be construed as an offer to provide investment advisory services; an offer to invest in an a16z-managed pooled investment vehicle will be made separately and only by means of the confidential offering documents of the specific pooled investment vehicles -- which should be read in their entirety, and only to those who, among other requirements, meet certain qualifications under federal securities laws. Such investors, defined as accredited investors and qualified purchasers, are generally deemed capable of evaluating the merits and risks of prospective investments and financial matters. There can be no assurances that a16z’s investment objectives will be achieved or investment strategies will be successful. Any investment in a vehicle managed by a16z involves a high degree of risk including the risk that the entire amount invested is lost. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by a16z is available at https://a16z.com/investments/. Excluded from this list are investments (and certain publicly traded cryptocurrencies/ digital assets) for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly. Past results of Andreessen Horowitz’s investments, pooled investment vehicles, or investment strategies are not necessarily indicative of future results. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.