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Are Online Ads An Endangered Species?

10/04/2011 by Kathleen Carper, CSI, CDT

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When evaluating the performance of your online advertising, are you placing more value on click-through rates than on impressions?




WATCHING OUT FOR THE GOTCHA!!!

Many web users have been questioning the value of online advertising for years. Although there are many tasteful, well-crafted ads on the web, a great many more are simply annoying. Pop-up ads in particular can be so aggravating that the content we wish to access will have to be positively riveting for us to stay on a site at all, much less ever return to it.


Even worse are the sneaky gotcha ads that lead us to places we would really rather not go, causing us to worry about the possibility of nasty computer viruses, unemployment, or worse yet, hard time spent in the big house for deeds we haven’t even done.


Because of less than ethical tactics from a minority of advertisers, a majority of web users would probably rather handle a live snake than click through an online display ad from an unknown source. Statistics bear this out. A recent article from Business Insider indicates we are more likely to survive a plane crash than to click a banner ad.


But does this mean that banner ads and other types of online advertising have no value and you should spend your advertising dollars elsewhere? Not necessarily – we need only look to traditional media for insight.


WHAT IS VALUE, ANYWAY?

Consider the interest generated by commercials aired during the Super Bowl each year. These entertaining ads are eagerly anticipated — so much so that people who could care less about football often watch the game just to see them. In fact, The Huffington Post reported that Super Bowl 2011 was the most watched program ever in the U.S. with 111 million viewers, according to The Nielsen Co.


Is it any wonder that advertisers are willing to spend astronomical sums to reach this mass audience? ADWEEK reports that ads to air during the 2012 Super Bowl may exceed $3 million per 30-second spot.


Think about that – a 30-second spot that can’t even be “clicked through” going for over $3 million, and that figure doesn’t even include the costs to create and produce the ad. Obviously, a business would not invest so heavily in the television equivalent of “impressions” unless it expected a substantial return on that investment.


THERE MAY BE MORE TO AN IMPRESSION THAN MEETS THE EYE

An interior decorating analogy may help to explain what is going on here. For example, when you first move into a new house or apartment, the walls are bare. However:


  • Once the furniture is in place and the most important boxes are unpacked, what do you do? Unless you are a minimalist, you decorate! Family photos, framed artwork, mirrors, tapestries – you carefully select, arrange and hang each piece according to your tastes and sense of style in order to bring your walls to life and make your living space feel like home.

  • Do you routinely inspect the artwork and mementos that adorn your walls? Not likely, yet your brain still registers their presence

  • When a visitor enters your home, do you expect money to magically appear in your bank account whenever that person glances at your Salvador Dali print? Hopefully not, but that does not mean the representation of melting clocks won’t make a memorable impression on your guest and provide additional insight into your personality


The take-away? The same concept can hold true with online ads. A visitor may not click on an ad, but that does not mean that its message is not received.




REALISM MEETS IMAGINATION

So, perhaps it is time to re-think your expectation of what online ads should and should not be able to do. The desire to have eyes on your ad is reasonable, but in most cases, expecting an abundance of click-throughs and conversions from an online ad may be increasingly unrealistic.


However, take heart! There are exceptions, particularly when the ad is imaginative and creative. For a great example of this (and to have some fun!!!), see this award-winning ad and find out for yourself what can inspire a user to click through over …and over …and over …



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