Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Click Failure? Just a Failure of Imagination.

Click to see full-size graph
Growth of Top 10 Ad Units by Impressions Delivered
Through DoubleClick for Publishers, 2011.
Click to read the full report (PDF).

I've heard it from everyone it seems. Banner ads don't work. Nobody is clicking. People don't see ads anymore. The internet is - apparently - dead.

But that's not quite the right way to look at it. Yes clickthrough rates are down on banner ads compared to 2 and 5 years ago. The way people use the internet has changed in that period of time. So we digital marketers have to change, too.

Let's consider a few things before we abandon internet advertising all together:
  1. The overall audience of internet users is ... way bigger than it has ever been. Of the 7 billion people in the world, 2.4 billion of them are online as of June 2012. In 2000, there were a mere 360 million internet users (see World Internet Stats). So your 1% CTR now gets you 8x more real viewers now.
  2. It matters which ad unit you're using and what you are promoting. DoubleClick published a report in 2012 that, among other analysis, compared the growth of the top 10 ad units delivered in 2011. The tall skinny "skyscraper" is falling out of favor and smaller units are not delivering response for advertisers, and they are adjusting their site layouts to not accommodate these units. The more impactful units like the 300x100 and 300x250, popular in News, Entertainment and Sports, create more value for advertisers because they create more value for users. The off-the-chart performer was of course the mobile unit grew 186% in delivery volume because people are accessing sites on their phones and devices. The message has to work within that space.

  3. It matters what you're asking your audience to do with their click. Are you making an offer the reader can say "yes!" to? Are you creating any fun? Or is it just a variation on your print ad, static and dull? People go online for lots of things, but rarely will someone login thinking "I hope I get some ads today!" They want content, entertainment, information, research. The information they act on has to be relevant and interesting. Contests are great at activating an audience. They're good for generating user content and they are fun. Kissmetrics outlines a fun contest they advertised through several channels, including banner ads. Here is a good discussion of why to use contests on Twitter.
  4. It's still valuable exposure. Even if someone didn't click, they still had an opportunity to see your ad. If you are measuring success by clicks and you're not getting them, revisit your offer, revisit your creative and revisit the sites you are advertising on. People will act on offers that are compelling and relevant, so be sure you are both before abandoning online advertising.