Banner Clicks: Is The Advertising Industry Clutching At Straws?

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  • October 2, 2009

Yesterday we saw Google add a new AdWords feature that allows brands to track conversions “caused” by banners that were viewed but not clicked. The idea being that a user who views your banner and makes a purchase within 30 days should be attributed as some kind of conversion.

Today we have Linda Anderson from comScore explaining that brands shouldn’t worry about the fact that only 16% of internet users ever click on banners and that they should be thinking more about the value that might arrive from the 84% of users who see banners but never click on them.

Marketers who attempt to optimize their advertising campaigns solely around the click are assigning no value to the 84 percent of Internet users who don’t click on an ad. That’s precisely the wrong thing to do.

Savvy marketers are moving to an evaluation of the impact that all ad impressions — whether clicked or not — have on consumer behavior, mirroring the manner in which traditional advertising has been measured for decades using reach and frequency metrics.

The marketing industry is shouting loudly about the effectiveness of banner advertising and understandably so – media spend on banners is huge and for brands to lose confidence in the medium would be a disaster. However it seems that as an industry we are trying to add some extra value to cover the fact that the performance of banners is dropping year after year.

The problem I have is that just viewing a banner has absolutely zero effect on any buying decision I might make. People make the fundamental assumption that just because an ad has been loaded on a page it’s been “viewed” but that isn’t the case.

What would happen if PPC & SEO companies started taking credit for the impressions we were generating in the search results rather than the actual click throughs? We would get laughed at but it’s pretty much the same thing just without the images.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Rishi Lakhani

    There is a case for tracking banner impressions IMHO – if done as part of a comple Event to Conversion point of view. If companies track independent Halo effects of banner advertising, the results that come about sometimes are surprising – the reinforcement of “Brand” sometimes is a larger call to action for Brand search activity than most SEMs would like to believe.

    Although in its infancy, E2C analytics may end up playing a bigger part in display / banner campaigns in the future if the data, and indeed its analysis becomes more robust over time.

  • Sam Michel

    Hi Patrick, I agree with most of what you say, but there’s a difference between registering a view and a user actually viewing an advert. I’m no apologist for traditional media, but by that reckoning TV or cinema advertising has no impact on the purchasing decisions of users.

    Granted it’s nowhere near as measurable as SEO/PPC or online advertising in general. More worryingly for those channels, the value is quickly tending towards zero because they can’t easily identify the impact that it’s having on the conversion process.

    We’re having a similar conversation on the uk-netmarketing discussion list at the moment of the value, if any, of a cost-per-engagement model of ad sales.

  • tag44

    Yes Banner make a change in online industry, people got tend to click on such banner adds rather than text ads.

  • Marita

    Looks like the viewings will soon be measured like billboards, store signs etc: After you’ve seen them a certain number of times – without actually consciously looking at them – they leave an impression in your brain; and subsequently you subconsciously make a choice about that brand. Since ads on a page are much smaller, I assume that color use will have a lot to do with how people react to it – kind of like the debate of ‘sign-up’ buttons.

  • Jamie Brown

    I think the validity of post-impression conversion depends on the type of campaign and the size of company. If you are Amazon then its much harder to justify post-impression metrics because of the vast amount of inevitable canibalisation from people would have bought from you anyway. If you are a smaller brand then chances are most of the post-impression sales actually can be attributed to the banner, because the chances of that customer buying from you regardless is much less.

    And actually I do think there might be a case for post-impression measurement of SERPs (if it were technically possible) – there are a few studies that have looked at the “brand uplift” of search positioning, even when there is no associated click.

    However whenever post-impression metrics are involved, deduplication is the key. If you can do it so that post-click wins out to post-impression, but post-impression data is still available, then I think you’re on to a winner by giving channels the value they deserve.

  • Nicola

    As I said in response to Zoe’s article, I think these ‘conversions without clicks’ stats need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Like you say Patrick, many of these ‘views’ have not actually been ‘seen’ by the user at all, let alone affected their buying decisions. However, there will of course be a section of consumers who are drawn to the brand or product through watching/interacting with the banner ad (either consciously or subconsciously) which means that IMHO it is relevant to include such stats in an overall marketing strategy assessment.
    Any visual advertising (more so than text-only) does have the weighting of subconscious recognition among consumers. For example, research tells us that the repetition of certain colours/shapes/images (as is the case with strong brand identity within banner ads) will inevitably build a sense of familiarity with the consumer (even if this is not conscious) which in turn can lead to a larger inclination to trust the brand and thus a higher likelihood of purchase.

  • Stef

    While I agree most views of banner ads will not lead to conversions, I think this is a useful tool. Even if it isn’t very accurate, all the analytics you have available are worth looking at.

  • Mailing Lists

    Very interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing. I like what Marita said as well, sometimes we will look at something and pay no attention to it, but it may leave an impression in our mind.

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