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Dead internet ideas: Optimizing click rates

Dead internet ideas: Optimizing click rates Doug Weaver

Download video of Doug Weaver's complete presentation here.

Write these four numbers down: 10,000; 78; 9,975; and 9,956.

I sat in on a few different sessions at the Agency Summit, and I was sitting in watching a case study around the use of demand-side platforms. It's amazing that we can now get the right people grouped together, deliver a message, and just communicate with the people we want to talk to and have no waste in reaching outside that audience.

Then came the discussion on the big payoff and the success of that campaign, and the chief metric of success was that it increased the click rate 78 percent.

Wow, that sounds pretty terrific. But now let's break apart the numbers. That first number, 10,000, that's the number of impressions that are in play here. We put 10,000 impressions out there. These are 10,000 impressions where we have a consumer who is leaning forward, connecting with the content, in a receptive mood, looking for something. We put that content in front of them, and if we're at the industry average click rate of a quarter of 1 percent, it means we're in the business of throwing away 9,975 of those impressions in order to get 25 at the end of the line.

So you increase that by 78 percent. Great success, because now we're only throwing away 9,956 of them.

Make no mistake, burning through inventory with the ultimate goal of maximizing a click-through rate is our industry's version of strip mining. The problem with strip mining, of course, is that it's not very sustainable. It treats all this inventory -- all those billions of pages and consumer interactions -- as slag, waste material to be discarded. It also has an obviously detrimental impact on the landscape, both economically and visually.

It causes us to carpet-bomb consumers with a mind-numbing frequency of "click me" ads. It wastes the time and talent of the publishers' sales and service organizations and pulls agencies away from their real missions of strategy and creativity. We can do more, we can demand more, and we have to have more.

It prevents us from really exploring the true value of the impression itself. There's so much great stuff in our industry: creativity, demand-side platforms, all this amazing thinking, amazing technology, the ability to bring social media to the fore. All these incredibly smart people are doing all these incredibly smart things, but in service to what? The click? It's like watching Secretariat pull a milk wagon.

There's no right way to do the wrong thing. Until we walk away from the dead idea of optimizing to the click, and unless we set the expectation for clicks at zero, I believe our creative and economic potential is going to go unfulfilled.

Doug Weaver is senior analyst for iMedia, as well as founder and CEO of Upstream Group.

Doug Weaver is a highly regarded strategist and opinion leader in the world of online advertising. Over the past 16 years he's worked with over 600 leading companies, including Facebook, Yahoo!, Apple, Fox Sports, USA TODAY, CBS Digital Media, YuMe,...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Arthur Jones

2010, May 27

This is a great post. surely it is thought provoking.

You present the problem very eloquently, however, I learned early on that you never present a problem without presenting a solution.

I believe the final paragraph of your post is intended to be your answer, where you say:

"There's no right way to do the wrong thing. Until we walk away from the dead idea of optimizing to the click, and unless we set the expectation for clicks at zero, I believe our creative and economic potential is going to go unfulfilled."

What are you really suggesting here, is it that optimizing to gain clicks is:

A zeros sum game

Art Jones