June 14, 2012

Nobody Ever Clicked On The Mona Lisa

Earlier this week, in a post entitled Why Clicks Matter, I expressed the opinion that the only sensible expectation for online display advertising is that it will generate clicks.

Now that the dirty little secret that almost no one clicks on display ads is out, one of the arguments that apologists, sales hustlers, and people who don't understand advertising drag out is "oh yeah, well nobody ever clicked on a TV spot."

There are several reasons this argument is appallingly stupid and disingenuous.

First is the most obvious. TV doesn't rely on "interactivity" for its effectiveness. TV spots have a 60-year history of building brands -- thousands of them in hundreds of categories -- without the magic of interactivity.

Display ads have nothing. In the 15-year history of online display advertising is there a single instance of a major brand of anything being built by display ads? It is perfectly clear to anyone with a functioning cortex that display ads rely on interactivity for their value. TV spots don't.

Second, when traditional advertising is lousy at motivating people, agencies always haul out the  "branding" argument. This is what the display ad crowd is now trying to do. They are trying to sell us the idea that display advertising is brilliant for "branding" -- whatever the hell that means. Only a blind fool believes this nonsense. Every study ever done tells the same story --  display ads are essentially invisible.

Finally, as Harvey Briggs points out here, whether we admit it or not, TV spots are part of the content. Everyone is willing to acknowledge this on Super Bowl Sunday, but the other 364 days we pretend it's not true. Display ads are clearly not part of the content. They are barely even part of the page.

The argument that "nobody ever clicked on a TV spot" is the witless, desperate argument of apologists for an over-hyped, marginally effective mode of advertising. It has the intellectual integrity of asserting that Babe Ruth was a lousy athlete because he never scored a touchdown.

Amazingly, there are naifs throughout the marketing industry dense enough to accept it.


Kirk said...

Another point I would bring out against the "nobody ever clicked on a TV spot" defense is that it carries the faulty presupposition that "advertising for branding purposes on a TV ad" always works.  This is faulty because TV branding has no doubt failed and is (like all marketing) highly susceptible to many variables (budget, brand, industry, skill in advertising, market, etc), and cannot be used as a blanket defense for a completely separate marketing channel (Display Ads).

Your post has me interested in buying your book (how's that for branding?).  Good work :)

Cecil B. Demille said...

This is quite the "ton of bricks" response to an ill-advised, poorly conceived and, in the end, patronizing comment on a previous post. Quite a venomous retort. Surprising, though not undeserved. 

Hell, I've probably deserved as much many times over.

Stephen said...

Nice to see the use of the word "naif". A beautiful word not often seen.

Vic Norman said...

advertising has, since about 1995, over hyped digital. At first it was because of ignorance. Now it's about a mad dash for cash to stem the leaks from the other parts of the business. Either way you still get the same result. Ill-informed opinion, bad advice and nothing to show for it except some ropey old case studies.

Tore Claesson said...

Lot's of people "click" on TV ads. Informercials are effective enough to keep running and running.

Jim said...

Why don't they, you know who I mean by they, remove the clickability of the banner ads then. Humm, why oh, why oh, why?

At the very least that way when I accidently  click one I don't get annoyed and their ads, if they are to believed, will still work just as well. Maybe better..too far?

Also it would save them loads of reporting wouldn't it.  We stuck all your ads up Mister Client and took off all the links because, well... nobody clicks a traditional ad so why should we be any different.....no need for tedious monthly reports looking at who clicked what ads where and discuss mis-clicks and click fraud and times of days we got clicks and which ad got clicked the most and all that. 

You don't do all  that with your un-clickable billboard guys do ya, no, so we don't want to either. Not fair.

Jamie said...

Online Ads are all about relevance, the same with almost any other form of advertising. People see what they want to see, so if there is an ad, be it on TV or online, about a new housing development and you are looking to buy a house, then you will notice it. So the real focus point is targeting. if you target the right people your ad will be more relevant and therefore more likely to be noticed/watched/clicked on.