Have you ever tried “Binge Clicking”?
The modern media era has ushered in the concept of binge-viewing, where a person sits down to watch all episodes of a show in a shortened time frame. I recently did this with 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 tried an experiment to see what would happen if I started “binge-clicking”, or basically clicking on at least one ad on every webpage I was on for a pre-determined period. For 2 days I clicked on at least one ad from every page where I spent some time as a consumer and I 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, but its not for 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, its 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, they simply didn’t need to know more at that time. In my experience the last few days, I found very few ads that were delivering me anything new – they were profoundly over-weighted towards retargeting. The discovery role and awareness driving of online ads were almost nonexistent.
When I did click on the ads, I was able to get 1-2 degrees deeper into the web, at best. Most ads brought me to a dead-end. They brought me to a product site or a shopping cart for purchase. The only exception there was Amazon and some of the retargeted ads I saw for them which dropped me into the almost endless world of Amazon – you can binge click for ever in those rainforests of economic interconnectedness. Most of the time I would click through, land on the destination site and every click I was exposed meant to drive me to a shopping cart. In terms of customer acquisition it is 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!
No wonder click-through stinks. The consumer knows that clicking will only get you to one page beyond where you were. Consumers are not stupid – they know what the expect when they click on an ad, and most of the ads they see are intended to drive a sale, not present something new. I feel the industry has created an over-dependency on retargeting and not enough marketers are 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 for good. Data can be used to find new audiences and my sincere hope over the coming months is to see more marketers user data to open up new lines of customers and prospects rather than continue to pummel the existing ones into submission. Agencies are a huge piece of this because they can create more innovative campaigns and put data to good use if they are trusted to do so.
Try your own experiment and “binge-click” for an hour to see what happens. I bet you’ll be a little surprised how small the web actually can be.