No More Clicks?

A lot of time has been spent in the industry talking about ways to make online advertising a better, more acceptable member of the advertising media mix. Demonstrations of branding value, a focus on conversion rates rather than response rates, and even the deconstructive exercise of swapping out some long-standing signifiers for more catchy, potentially accurate nomenclature have all been set forth as ways to move us towards a happier existence among our offline media brethren.

One of the elements the industry is most interested in distancing itself from is the click, that erstwhile marker of success in the online advertising game.

The click has held, and continues to hold in many circles, sway as THE metric for success of an online advertising campaign. Ample evidence exists which suggests in fact there is little or no correlation between an impulse response to an ad, i.e. the click, and the ultimate desired result of an action. If what you want are on-the-spot conversions, then look at your advertising through that lens. If you are hoping for a lift in brand awareness, use that to shape the metric for success. Do not, however, glom on to the click as the surrogate measure for your campaign's success or failure.



So what can we do about this pesky click? How do we depose it as the ruler of online advertising metrics and put it in its proper place as minor vassal in the domain?

Most of the suggestions as late have revolved around propping up alternative, more meaningful metrics that will give us a bigger picture and better view of what advertising really accomplishes for the product or service being advertised. By making thinks like conversions, buying power index, brand awareness, or purchase intent the heroes of our tale, clicks can find a comfortable supporting role to play.

More recently, however, the idea of fading clicks out as part of the standard data point on a report is being considered and in some cases implemented.

Many believe that publishers all need to follow the lead of Scot McLernon and sites like CBS Marketwatch ( and stop automatically putting click numbers on their reports and instead focus on those other more valuable aspects of what the ad campaign on a site can accomplish, like impact and recall to the target market and post impression/click conversation.

I believe this is directionally correct, but removing Stalin's name from the side of the building does not change the fact of the Ukrainian pogroms. If clients and agencies still ask for clicks, they should still be provided. That is not to say clicks should regain the position of their erstwhile primacy. But they are data points that can provide some kind of learning.

Doug Weaver, founder and President of the Upstream Group, also has proposed the removal of the click.

"[T]here's a whole generation of clients out there who know nothing of the terror of the Ukraine. Do we propagate the tyranny of click-Stalinism in perpetuity just because that's what the first 3% of Internet ad buyers got used to? I'm not saying hide the clicks...just stop reporting them by rote the way we always have. Yes, take them off the report and only put them back when the client specifically asks for them."

Mr. Weaver points out rightly that by including clicks we will continue to propagate the mistakes of the past 5 years, "Equating clicks with either (a) response or (b) branding value. Since (a) a click is not necessarily a sale/registration/conversion, (b) a sale/conversion/registration is not contingent on a click, and (c) clicks have no correlation whatsoever to brand value, then - yes - we've got to take clicks out of the discussion. Clicks will continue to dominate the discussion as long as they're present."

There is now a generation of client who was not raised under the gray skies of CTR and 2 + 2 equals 5 of clicks, but those at the Fortune 500 or the Global 3500 are not seemingly among them. These are the folks asking for clicks. It is up to us to educate them away from that. But ignoring the lump does not prevent the cancer from metastasizing. Clicks are not the problem. Lack of standards, lack off measurement that is sensible, and lack of research that demonstrates value is the problem. CTR is blood from the wound, not the object of infliction.

Clicks tell us something about creative and impulse appeal of a value proposition, especially if I'm a direct response advertiser. Telling me to not pay attention to clicks is like saying it doesn't matter how many phone calls I get after I flash my 1-800 number. Saying clicks have no correlation to brand value or any other form of subsequent action is like saying it doesn't matter if someone picks up your product off the shelf in the store after having seen your ad and hold it in their hands, turn it over, look at the packaging, and read the ingredients. Whether or not the individual buys it right then and there matters. Whether they buy it later maters. And the fact that the individual was enticed to at least consider the product DEFINITELY matters.

If this were a matter of moral import, I would say pluck out thine eye if thine eye offends thee. But this is not that kind of issue. Are clicks important? Not really. Do they tell us anything of value? Sometimes. Should they be the leg on which we continue to stand? Absolutely not. Should we do away with them all together? No.

The click is a red-herring to the more important issues at hand. Saying that we will solve our problems by ridding ourselves of the click is a fallacy.

- Jim Meskauskas is Chief Internet Strategist/Media Account Director at Mediasmith, Inc., a San Francisco and New York based Interactive Media Agency and Consultancy.

Next story loading loading..