My Binge-Clicking Experiment Reveals The Web Is Too Targeted

Have you ever tried “binge clicking”?

I recently binge-watched Marvel’s “Daredevil” on Netflix, but I rarely have the time to do so between work, exercise and raising two boys.  Since binging is something most Americans do in one form or another, I experimented to see what would happen if I started “binge-clicking” — basically, clicking on at least one ad on every Web page I was on for a predetermined period.  I did this for two days and learned some interesting things: namely, that clicking on ads creates a significantly smaller universe for my media experience.

Our industry has thought about clicks in absolutely the wrong way for years -- only not because of the the reasons you might have read about.  In the old days, clicking was a way to uncover new content and find new destinations, and marketers used them as such.  Banners were almost a discovery tool.  There was very little value attributed to awareness and simple exposure to a message.  



Nowadays, I would argue the click is borderline meaningless.  All it does is provide a quick measure for short-term impact resulting from ongoing frequency of exposure.  When someone clicks on an ad, it’s because they’ve been hearing about or seeing a product for some time, and they finally decide to check it out.  If they don’t click, it’s not because the ad was ineffective, but because they simply didn’t need to know more at that time. 

In my experience the last few days, I found very few ads delivering me anything new. Ads were profoundly over-weighted toward retargeting.   The role of discovery and driving awareness was almost nonexistent.

When I did click on the ads, I was able to get one to two degrees deeper into the Web, at best.  Most ads brought me to a dead-end: to a product site or a shopping cart for purchase. In terms of customer acquisition, it was definitely more focused, but in terms of helping me uncover new products and services, it was utterly useless. The Web has become a very focused environment and its lost some of the discovery elements that made it so exciting in years past!

The only exception there was Amazon, where the retargeted ads I saw dropped me into the almost endless world of Amazon -- you can binge-click forever in those rainforests of economic interconnectedness.  

No wonder click-through stinks.  Consumers are not stupid -- they know that clicking will only get them to one page beyond where they were, and that most of the ads they see are intended to drive a sale, not present something new.  

I feel the industry has created an overdependence on retargeting, with not enough marketers using modeling to find new customers and increase awareness of their products and services.  The Web is the most powerful tool for discovery of information in history -- and we’re using it like a used car salesmen who bombards you when you walk onto the lot.  

Data can be used to find new audiences. My sincere hope is to see more marketers use data to open up new lines of customers and prospects, rather than continuing to pummel the existing ones into submission.  Agencies can be a huge piece of this solution, because they can create more innovative campaigns and put data to good use if they are trusted to do so.  

Try your own experiment: “Binge-click” for an hour to see what happens.  I bet you’ll be a little surprised at how small the Web actually can be.

2 comments about "My Binge-Clicking Experiment Reveals The Web Is Too Targeted".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from, May 13, 2015 at 11:55 a.m.

    I can't even imagine binge clicking now that one click can lead to a whole series of meaningless ads on my facebook page and elsewhere.  The click is more cluck given the lack of targeted landing pages. They must think we are chickens stabbing at the screen. And I thank you for doing the experiment.  The clucking I'm doing lately is about the television experience delivered online, yes, I'm a cord cutter, where one ad is showen over and over again, or they maybe rotate a couple of ads.  Recently NBC Nightly news stopped their podcast with no ads in favor us having to go their Website where the nightly broadcast is a series of clips with an ad stuck in between each clip, often times the same ad. I had returned to listening to the NBC nightly news more out of nostalgia for the old days, but I won't be able to take the pummelling much longer. 

  2. Hollis Thomases from Hollis Thomases, May 17, 2015 at 11:51 a.m.

    Cory, your statement, "The Web is the most powerful tool for discovery of information in history -- and we’re using it like a used car salesmen who bombards you when you walk onto the lot" couldn't be more spot on. And while I also agree that modeling can help improve online experiences for both users and advertisers, I don't feel that discovery (i.e. predictive modeling) should only be predicated on past behavior or suppositions about people's interests based on other associative data. I'm also a fan of random circumstance -- to me, it has led to some of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences of my life.  What I'd like to see is the ability for the consumer to control their degree of random encounters -- to dial it up or down, depending upon their desire for randomness.  I've called this The Happenstance Variable (, and I think it would yield a better user reaction to advertising than what we all have to deal with online today.

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