“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” — Albert Einstein.
Alright, so suggesting that Einstein was talking about online advertising might be taking his quote just a little out of context, but his sentiments are something you should consider when evaluating your online marketing. It’s next to impossible to give your boss a report showing how your last ad campaign improved people’s perception of your brand or increased their intent to purchase your product. It’s even very difficult to show how an ad campaign increased sales (was it a new sales rep, team rider, media coverage, the weather, a new product, etc.?). One of the few things in marketing that’s easy to track and understand is click-through rate, so that’s what gets used — whether it matters or not.
Take a look at this column from Dave Morgan. He’s the founder and Chairman of Tacoda, a company that delivers online ads to users based on their behavior patterns. (Incidentally, Tacoda just announced that it’s being bought by AOL for $275 million)
Here’s an excerpt:
Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks.
Who are these “heavy clickers”? They are predominantly female, indexing at a rate almost double the male population. They are older. They are predominantly Midwesterners, with some concentrations in Mid-Atlantic States and in New England. What kinds of content do they like to view when they are on the Web? Not surprisingly, they look at sweepstakes far more than any other kind of content. Yes, these are the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers.
What does all of this mean? It means that while clickers may be valuable audiences, they are by no means representative of the Web at large. Focusing campaigns to optimize on clicks means skewing campaigns to optimize on middle-aged women from the Midwest. If these folks are not your target, then you should be ignoring the click-rate and looking deeper, to what audience your impressions are being delivered, and what audiences are converting (there is a large body of evidence that shows that click-rates and conversion rates rarely correlate with each other).
Resist the temptation to have a blinking “FREE” button in your ad so that you can increase your clicks and make your boss happy. If your brand was built on image-oriented marketing, don’t throw that strategy away just because your audience has moved online. The medium has changed, but the message to the consumer is still the same.