This post is by John Drake, VP of brand planning at Drake Cooper.

Click-through rate is an easy metric to understand. But the value of online advertising extends far beyond this. I've long believed that we travel across the web like we travel across a city, noticing things – like billboards – as we go. And it's in this spirit where a key part of online advertising can often be misunderstood.

For some reason it seems un-popular to talk about web ads as billboard-like. Maybe it seems too pedestrian. Maybe it seems like an excuse for low click rates. I think it makes common sense. It's how advertising has worked throughout history.

To support the idea of online ads as billboard-like, Millward Brown has made data available through Warc surrounding 8,000 online campaigns from their Brand Lift Insight study.

Three things stood out:

Online Advertising Drives Brand Metrics

There are key brand metrics that advertisers look to measure as best they can. Among them: Awareness, Favorability and Purchase Intent. Brand Lift shows how consumers who were exposed to online advertising expressed higher levels of brand metrics across these measurements than those who didn't see any online ads. This makes online advertising a cost-effective way to help raise such metrics.

Good Creativity Overcomes Consumer Irritation

There is lots of data that shows how digital ads are welcomed less by consumers than non-digital ads. But the good news is digital ads can overcome this resistance as easily as any other medium. As shown below, when "irritation" is studied individually, the medium of the ad matters little.

And, most importantly, when ads are liked they don't become more irritating with increased exposure. As the Millward Brown study points out, if an online ad is initially liked then there is no change in likability with a frequency of one versus a frequency of 10+.

Notable Frequency Over Long Timelines Perform Best

The most cost-effective impression is always the first one. But, over time, the number of impressions a person is exposed to has greater impact on awareness and persuasion.

In general, the longer the amount of time the campaign runs, the more brand impact the campaign will deliver. In the Millward Brown study, when campaigns were run over a month, the brand metrics and awareness levels were both stronger, than, say, over a week or a day.

Click through rate (CTR)

So online advertising boosts brand metrics. Now, add in the value of a CTR. Last time I checked, the CTR from all non-digital media was zero.

Then add in the value of purposely selecting programmatic ads that are relevant to someone's behavior. Finally, add in real-time metrics to evaluate who's engaging, what creative is working best, and how the campaign is performing.

The complete picture makes online ads much more valuable than a simple CTR argument.

Yes there are viewability problems. And yes programmatic is far from perfect. But if agencies are in business to raise awareness of brands, acquire new customers, create affinity and sell stuff, then programmatic is an important part of the plan.

Read the full report from Millward Brown.

John Drake is Vice President of Brand Planning at Drake Cooper, an advertising agency that's for the ambitious. Offering design, advertising, digital and media buying services, the agency has been named one of Outside magazine's national "Best Places to Work" three years running and is one the most creatively-awarded agencies in the northwest. @JohnDrake