Commentary

The Nobody Market

An executive vice president at the Advertising Research Foundation and his cronies spent $480 creating six blank ads (no copy, no images) in three IAB standard sizes in two colors, and served them via a demand-side platform.  They started with run of exchange, and then trafficked to "named publishers" that would accept unaudited copy. The average click-through rate across half a million ads served was 0.08%, which he said is "good for a brand campaign, and so-so for a direct response campaign."

The humor in all this, I suppose, is that there are enough folks out there who will click on, well, nothing -- either out of curiosity or by mistake to generate a click rate that someone could package into an ROI calculation. The ARF vice president called the spend "a pretty good deal for a diagnostic check-up on a $100 billion machine."

But maybe he needs to step back and look at the larger issue. Now groups of users have been categorized into the "nothing" audience segment, a key target group for no one. Since legislators are greatly concerned about discrimination based on the click-stream evidence of one's probable income, they will have a shit fit when they see that nobody has no income ascribed to their segment.  Moreover, privacy wonks will want to know if you are triangulating nobody's cookie data with offline sources to see that nobody buys anything.

"As the Beatles so aptly put, it being a 'real nowhere man, ‘making all his nowhere plans for nobody,' does not mean you are literally a nobody, but in fact are a reflection of the alienation we all feel from time to time," says Jeff Chestbeater, a guy who carved out a living being annoying about privacy. "Even nobodies deserve to have their identities protected -- even though I have to admit that they have no PII to begin with."

Silicon Alley start-up "Target Zero," which claims it can target nobody for less cost and better results, has received funding from a number of high-profile VC firms who are afraid they will be left out of the next New York Times round-up of who's who in the Valley. "Our advanced proprietary algorithms (developed by former Israeli military intelligence officers) can separate clickers who are just screwing around from actual buyers," says Target Zero CEO Ziv Doppel Ganger. "We avoid the buyers since everyone else is targeting them, and focus on reaching nobodies at scale. We are highly effective for both brands and direct-response advertisers. Call me if you want to see our PowerPoint."

Commenting on the nobody market segment, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, one of the senior physicists at the 4As, says, "We have evidence that the distance between being a nobody and a somebody is measurably almost meaningless. A good deal of somebodiness is an illusion, emanating from one's own fascination with self -- and in reality is just a Higgs boson away from nobodiness. Therefore it is hard to say that there is not a market of nobodies that someone can tap -- if not for nothing."

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