Report: Most Calls From Mobile Display Ads Happen Up To Two Weeks Later

Marchex says “more than $600 billion in telesales goes unattributed today.”


In conjunction with the announcement of a new product called “Marchex Display Analytics,” the company released a report that shows display ads aren’t getting credit for all the calls they’re delivering. The report (reg. req’d) is titled “The Missing 98 Percent: Why Display Advertising Isn’t Getting the Credit It Deserves.”

In order to generate the data in the report Marchex used its product/methodology to measure the impact of mobile display ads on calls, initiated in real-time and subsequently. What the company discovered by analyzing huge volumes of impressions and calls that most of the calls ultimately from mobile display advertising happen up to two weeks after exposure to an ad impression. Yet most of these calls (to call centers) are unattributed.

Looking only at calls generated immediately from banners or display units, Marchex says that it takes half a million impressions to trigger a single “quality” phone call (some calls are spam or misdials). If calls are a KPI, mobile display looks like a very bad media buy through this lens. However taken in the broader context of later-generated calls (latent calls), display performs much more effectively.

There are other mobile display outcomes (leads, e-commerce transactions, in-store visits) that are not the subject of this report.

Marchex Display ads

Source: Marchex (2015)

Consistent with what comScore has been saying for years, the impact of display is felt later when attribution may be murkier or harder to accurately capture. In this scenario the report finds that it takes only “8,000 impressions from a display ad to influence a phone call within 2 weeks.” In other words, more calls are actually coming from display exposures — they’re just not happening in real time.

Marchex says “display ads influence 60 times more phone calls than they do a direct click-to-call.” The challenge is accurate attribution.

Marchex doesn’t go into much detail about its methodology in the report or on its website (see update below):

The Marchex Display Analytics provides an industry-first view-through conversion metric for inbound phone calls, enabling digital marketers to measure the ROI of programmatic campaigns by connecting offline phone calls with display impression data. The reports are delivered real-time, providing marketers with actionable intelligence to shift towards display tactics that work.

Mobile display advertising exceeded the value of mobile paid search for the first time this year. Mobile display advertising is also projected to exceed desktop display ad revenue this year and reach more than $20 billion by the end of 2016 according to emarketer.

Even as it gains momentum, display advertising seems more vulnerable than ever, with claims of bots and fraud and viewability challenges. Mobile display is also at the center of the ad-blocking debate.

Postscript: Below is a statement I received from Marchex on how it matches calls and display ad exposures:

The Marchex Audience Graph allows us to connect display exposure to an inbound phone call.  It is a first party data set that matches online users represented by cookies or Audience IDs to their offline profiles represented by anonymized phone numbers.

(Some images used under license from


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