NONE: ONLINE-ADS>> A bad click-thru divisor?

ONLINE-ADS>> A bad click-thru divisor?

Allen Hammock (
Tue, 13 Oct 1998 10:43:18 -0500 (CDT)

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I make an interesting point
on a new thread if you have the stamina to read this long post.]

I had a simple plan last week that surprisingly blew up in
my face: to show support for the sites I visit regularly by
clicking on their ads. An unusual concept I know, what with
CTRs shooting down the tubes these days, but I thought it
would be easy enough. (I even had the ego-stroking notion
that I might single-handedly boost the click-rates on the
sites I so graciously patronized.)

Every day, I visit the same three sites in sequence:
Advertising Age, ChannelSeven, and ClickZ. To show my
support, I set out to "click-out" of each site by clicking
on a sponsor's ad before I bookmarked over to the next one.
So, after reading the headlines on ChannelSeven, I'd click
on the GTE SuperPages ad before pulling ClickZ out of my
Favorites list.

After a few days of faithfully clicking through to various
advertisers (some of which lead me to even more advertising
like the interesting sponsorship at Fast Company's I realized that there were a few problems
with this new-found method of supporting my favorite
websites: 1) on sites where I was "content bonded" (i.e.,
where I regularly chose to read more than 1 page deep into
the site) I was only clicking on the *last* ad I saw to get
out of the site; 2) some sites quickly oversaturated my
attention with too few sponsors; and, 3) some sites had many
more advertisers than I had time to click on. I came to the
conclusion that, try as I might, there was no way for me to
show equal support for these sites even though I held them
in equal esteem. Why? My click-thru rates weren't the same
on each site.

On Advertising Age, I always read first the Articles and
Opinions section (which once a week lead to 1 or more extra
page views) AND the Interactive Daily section. Because I
was bonded to AdAge through several pages, and each page had
multiple ad views, I saw at least 4 ads per day. Initially,
my daily CTR was 25%. After several days, when I had
visited each of the sponsors, that dropped to 0%.

On ChannelSeven, I have the home page bookmarked. There are
usually new stories every 2 or 3 days, so most of the time I
had only 1 page view per visit. There are 6 ads on that
page (arguably 7), the top-most of which seems to be
dynamically served. So, I clicked on 1 of 6 ads per visit,
or CTR = 17%.

My behavior on ClickZ is even more predictable. Every day I
read the main page and then I zip off to my e-mail (and the
O-A list!). There are 5 ads on ClickZ, including two served
up by DoubleClick at the top of the page. CTR = 20%.

Without even considering the effects of caching and ad
saturation (the uncontrolled frequency variable), for the
three sites I tried to support equally I had click-thru
rates of 25%, 17%, and 20%. If I had been the type of
visitor to dig deep into a site with each visit, those rates
would have been much smaller (holding to my one click per
visit scheme).

Pretend for a moment that all web visitors shared my concern
for the financial well-being of these publishers. If you
had been the media buyer trying to get at my demographic,
which site would you have chosen?

It seems to me that the problem with falling click-thru
rates has nothing to do with how we measure impressions, or
how we place the creative (well, not NOTHING): I think we
are placing too big of a demand on visitors. Too much
inventory, too much exposure, and very few choices for the
genuinely interested consumer. We've taken the computer
magazine mentality (80% advertising 20% editorial) and tried
to apply it to the web. Over-exposure works out okay for
the print world because people sometimes like to browse
advertisements in magazines. I doubt anyone could venture
to say that consumers might be made to enjoy browsing banner
ads on websites!

Publishers need to give consumers less exposure to
advertising and more options for taking advantage of the ads
that are present. I *consciously* made an effort to support
my favorite publishers and to explore the sites of their
sponsors, but still relatively few of those advertisers had
any real opportunity to capture a moment of my attention.
As a consumer, I clicked through only when it best suited
me: after I was finished with the content. A lot of ad
space was wasted showing me products I had already
considered or would never consider. Plus, I my behavior was
that of a savvy-shopper; less experienced web surfers might
have fared worse.

If CTRs only reflect those times when the right consumer
(targeting) is matched with the right product (marketing) at
the right time (bonding) and with the least distractions
from other sponsors (saturation), then is it any wonder why
these rates are so low?

Thanks for your patience with my long-windedness.

Allen Hammock
Straylight LC (Seattle, WA)

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