An interesting study crossed my screen recently.  According to this press release, media agency Starcom USA, behavioral targeting network Tacoda, and digital consumer insight company comScore collaborated on a research study whose results call into question how well click rates on ads measure a consumer base.

The study states that only 6% of the total Internet population represents 50% of the clicks on ads.  Online media companies may use click rates as points of negotiation with their clients, but if this study is accurate, that measurement is not a clear view of how many people are seeing these ads.  Further measurements from the study show no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked.

So who are these clickers?  Reading some forums concerning the topic led to some interesting, and occasionally probably ideas:

  • Young children that may click more than they should
  • Overly frugal consumers fiendishly looking for a great deal
  • First time Internet users
  • Employees who click on their own ads to raise metrics
  • Professional ‘ad clickers' who are hired to click to raise metrics

The ‘Heavy Clicker' is profiled in the study.  These users are typically between the ages of 25-44 and households with an income under $40000.  They also spend four times more time online than the typical Internet user and are more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career services sites.  Clearly, these are not typical Internet users, nor are they the type of people that many of the above suggestions implied.

As I mentioned in a past blog post, measuring click rates is archaic and unnecessary.  Ads on the Internet are not what they were promised to be-noninvasive and simple.

I think that it's actually sad that what could have been a great aspect of the Internet (essentially, selectable commercials) has been destroyed thanks to pop-up ads, spam, scams, and the need for online metrics.  It's time to move on to a new form of online advertising.