If you watched last Sunday’s Super Bowl you saw some outstandingly creative commercials. For Bud Light, for example. And how many click-throughs did Bud Light’s Super Bowl spots get? Zero. Gee, that doesn’t sound too good. How about Pepsi, which ran several impactful and clever spots—how many click-throughs did they get? Zero again. And that wonderful VW spot, with the car dropping out of the tree—how many click-throughs? Yet another zero.
I’m stacking the deck, of course. Most spots that run on television aren’t intended to provoke an immediate consumer response, they are intended to place an indelible image in the consumer’s mind that will, hopefully and eventually, translate into a purchase decision.
From their inception, Web ads have had to answer to a higher authority. When Web advertising was in its infancy and anything to do with the Web was a novelty, some ads had clickthrough rates exceeding 10%. The average, according to Web mythology, was around 5%. But I would be willing to bet that in that euphoric time consumers were clicking promiscuously on absolutely anything, hardly noticing or discriminating between advertisement and content. (A parallel experience can be drawn to the early days of television, when direct response commercials ruled the airwaves because consumers were willing to respond to any offer at all. Remember “Can it core a apple?”)
As the Web consumer became educated and even inured to the ways of Web advertising, the novelty level diminished and, predictably, clickthroughs dropped off. Industry observers took this to mean that the effectiveness of Web advertising was disappearing, culminating in Michael Eisner’s recent pronouncement that the Web as an advertising medium is dead.
But rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated. Careful industry observers, from my own company to our worthier competitors, have all noticed that the number of advertisers using the Web has continued to steadily increase, as has the amount of money being spent on the Web. Web advertising is too targetable, too measurable, too ubiquitous to be ignored. Marketers are figuring out how to best use it, and it takes time to get that right. But get it right they will, make no mistake.
Getting back to the clickthrough conversation, consider the following example: Say a given campaign achieves a clickthrough rate of 1 person per 100. Absent any additional information we’d say the clickthrough rate is 1%, and we’d leave it at that. But what if additional research discovered that another 1 person per 100 gains some knowledge from the campaign that causes their behavior to be affected. Perhaps they take another look at the product, or perhaps they even buy it. I would argue that the value of the original ad has doubled—at least.
Other media thrive on this kind of research; the magazine and broadcast industries have assembled boatloads of data showing how ads in those media stimulate buying decisions. That kind