This action performed by a Web reader lies at the equator that separates media buyers from media sellers and the more it's discussed, the hotter the topic gets. This difference in perspective comes down to a simple question of pull versus push.
Maggie Boyer, formerly of Avenue A, taught me how important it was not to wrestle control out of the hands of the user, but rather, guide them to a desired destination.
Yet most online campaigns do not appear to have a creative strategy that guides to click-through. It has become an "either/or" decision. Either the ads reach out and pull a reader by their thumbs to an advertiser's Web site, or they do not creatively ask a reader to click-through at all, but rather entice readers to view a brand's message within a dynamic format.
Many observers on the publishing side say the importance of click-through has diminished over the past few years. Personally, I think it is hibernating until it can rise up and further devour the value of an ad expression.
At Ign.com, I tried launching an initiative in which readers who clicked on ads first landed on a co-branded page that read "Thank you for clicking." Various options, including clicking over to the advertiser's site were then presented. In addition, a clearly labeled button would return the reader back to where they came from.
This initiative never got off the ground however, because our sales team felt it would do more harm than good in the eyes of our clients.
Publishers tend to have more respect for reader attention because their business is built upon the collection and nurturing of this commodity. That's why so many have pushed back on pop-up advertising, and will tell you privately they hate selling overlays and other ad units intended to "blast the eyes" of their readers.
Media buyers on the other hand, view consumers as "targets" and a click-through represents a direct hit. And, therein lies the difference between online sellers of consumer attention and those who purchase it.