As General Web Sophistication Grows, The Effectiveness of Simplistic Tactics Withers

As Louis CK says rather brilliantly, “Everything is amazing and no one’s happy.” The ready availability of technology inevitably inures people to its intrinsic wonder and possibilities through nothing more than repeated use.  As we navigate through the wild, shapeless zettabytes of information and arcania on the web, we form habits, creating our own narrow, predictable Habitrails™ around our interests and viewpoints.  We close our doors of perception lest we grow overwhelmed.

Picture 2Which may explain these recently released findings from comScore and Starcom updating their ongoing research around click-through rates for online ads.  Two findings leap out from this data.  First, a mere 16% of all web users account for nearly all online ad clicks, with 85% of clicks coming from 8% of users the study rather unimaginatively categorizes as ‘heavy clickers.’  And secondly, in less than two years between July ’07 and March ’09, the total share of all internet users who click online ads shrunk in half, from 32% to 16%.

Of course, media and marketing salespeople will respond to these findings by redoubling their protests that click through is an anemic measure for ad effectiveness.  And indeed, another comScore research shows online display ads generate meaningful lift in both online and offline sales whether they click the ad or not.

All of which kind of misses the really obvious lesson here: there simply can be no standing still on ‘proven’ assumptions about online audiences.  It’s a movable feast and the more effective and advanced technology becomes, the more the time-honored values of surprise, delight and intrigue will rise to the fore of this media platforms requirements to be truly effective.  Creativity always has been the differentiator between the average and the exceptional.  Even the wonkiest data wonks will soon have to admit tonnage and new message environments alone will not move the needle.

You always have to have something worth saying.  Or at least a clever way to say it.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79