The Power of Secondary Action Rate in Mobile Advertising


There is a buzz in the mobile advertising world these days. And it is that the metric called click-through (CTR) simply isn’t enough for mobile campaigns. What makes more sense is a term called SAR—Secondary Action Rate.

SAR claimed champion as the most accurate benchmarks for measuring mobile campaign success.

Consequently, optimizing your mobile ads for SAR can make you winning campaigns. Take for instance the freshly released report by Ninth Decimal, announcing an 80% increase in in-store visits on the 1st day the mobile ad was viewed. It means seeing the mobile ad, a certain amount of users have completed secondary actions while 80% of them advances to visit the store on the first day itself.

If you haven’t already known why you should opt for SAR-optimized mobile ads, you should read on.

Why Secondary Action Rate Makes Better Mobile Ad Measurement

CTR remains a common metric for digital advertising, but the study by xAd, Nielsen, and Placed reveals that CTR alone is a poor indicator of mobile ad campaign performance.

CTR is irrelevant or negatively correlate to SAR metric and SVL

They analyzed 200 impressions from 80 different campaigns from 12 major brands in various industries. They discovered that

  • when CTRs appeared high, SARs tended to be lower
  • lower CTRs were associated with the highest in-store visitation rates

Image of SAR optimized campaign results vs CTR

Post-click, secondary actions matter more than click-throughs

The following charts are campaigns from the study. They indicate that lower CTRs were associated with the highest in-store visitation rates. This means an ad that doesn’t get clicks, but raises brand awareness or encourages secondary actions is enough to drive SVL.

Image of CTR vs. SAR vs. SVL

Accidental clicks are common on mobile

Also, with small mobile screens and on the go, accidental clicks on ads happen rather commonly (as high as 40% of CTRs). So when click-through increased due to unintentional clicks, measuring campaign performance with mere CTR becomes unfitting.

Purchase intent translate to conversions

CTR does not reveal your users’ purchase intent. Whereas, SVL is known as the best purchase indicator while SAR comes close as second best. With higher purchase intent the greater your chance of high conversions. For example, if 20 people click on your mobile ad, and 10 of them get directions to your retail store, then we know these 10 are likely to pay your store visits and make purchases.


Now, you can forget about CTR optimization practices altogether. Since, making SAR-optimized mobile ads ideally align with your campaign goals—drive awareness, deeper engagement and high conversions like in-store traffic and sales.

However, marketers will find that SAR-optimized ads will not deliver great results with standard banner ads.

SAR is hopeless with static banners

Why, because SAR just doesn’t perform if your ad is only a static banner, where a click will simply bring them to a website. It tells you nothing of what they do post clicks—nothing about their interests, behaviors or purchase intents.

What’s more, it’s dull, less engaging. It’s ineffective! You will also risk losing their attention when the screen redirects from the static banner to a website.

Mobile rich media ad is what you need

Rich media banner provides a great playground for the little finger to meddle in, where every action can be tracked and interpreted. Also, it captures users’ attention well. Rich media content naturally encourages high secondary actions.

You can also track all the secondary actions in detail. With rich media content, you can have rich tracking with meaningful interpretations. For example, on your video ad you discover

  • 100 ad views
  • 30 watched the video half way
  • 70 completed the video
  • at the end of the video, 50 tapped the CTA button while 20 others tapped the “About Us”

Conversely, on a static banner ad all you’ll probably get are 100 ad views, with 50 clicked on the ad.


How SAR-optimized mobile ads make successful campaigns

When you create mobile rich media ads, naturally you are optimizing your mobile ad campaigns for SAR.

Now, let’s take for instance that you are commissioned to run a shampoo advertisement on mobile.

You have two choices. You can get a nicely designed static banner with a picture of your product and a model with silky shining hair. But, you can also be a little more creative by turning everyone into a model for your shampoo ad.

To do that, you can let consumers take a selfie within your ad unit. Then, you let them choose a hairstyle as they wish from the hairstyles collection. With proper finishing, i.e. brand logo and the product image, now your users can proudly share the personalized shampoo ad, which is a selfie of themselves as the model, on their social media.

On the same ad unit, you can also provide a ‘more info’ tab so people can know you better. Also, a ‘map with store locators’ to drive them to the nearest store to make a purchase.

Let’s take a look at how rich media content can create brand awareness, produce deeper engagement experience and drive higher conversions.

  • It compels users to participate: Everybody loves selfie. Everyone wants to be a model. It makes them feel great, and it’s fun as well!
  • It builds strong emotional connection: Embellishing yourself with a unique hairstyle for a change of look is interactive and fun too. Also, the idea of becoming a shampoo model makes it all the more interesting. These all translate to making them feel good about your brand.
  • It increases brand recall: You’ve made them feel great so people will remember you. At their next shampoo hunting adventure, they can easily discern your brand from other brands on the shelf.
  • You build brand advocacies: Social media shares help market your brand among their peers. With a simple social share button, you’ve now employed many brand advocates to do branding for you.
  • You understand your prospects better: You will discover how many people who engaged with your ad are interested to make a purchase when they check the ‘store locators’. Or how many people are interested to know your brand better when they browse the ‘more info’ tab.

With mobile rich media content, the possibilities of secondary actions on your ad are boundless. The higher their engagement with your ads is, the better your chances are to convert them. The intent itself (shown through secondary actions) indicates users’ interest in you and what you are offering.

A little investment goes a long way…

Now, imagine if a little extra expenditure can get you mobile rich media ads, would you still spend, despite a little less, on static banners?

Especially, after learning that mobile rich media ad is naturally optimized for SAR that delivers richer content and drives better awareness, engagement, and conversions or boosts in store visitations as compared to static banners.

Wrapping it up

  • Study shows that
    • CTR alone is insufficient to learn how successful your mobile campaigns are
    • Secondary Action Rate is more suitable to measure mobile ad campaign performance
    • Lower CTRs indicated highest in store visitations (SVL)
  • Secondary actions translate better engagement and conversion success
  • Rich media content naturally encourages secondary actions
  • SAR-optimized ads make successful mobile ad campaigns—higher ad awareness, deeper engagement, and greater conversions


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