Brands should move banner money into spam and junk mail

fanclublogoThe average response rate for junk mail is 1.38%.

The average click-through rate for marketing email is 6.64%

The average open rate for a thirty-second television commercial is…oh, right, we don’t measure TV spots that way.  Yet.

But that’s precisely how we assign value to ads on humankinds’ most immersive and engaging medium to date.

The average click-through rate on banner ads is 0.2%.  About seven times worse than junk mail.

What a disgrace.  And I’m not talking about the click-through rate.

The Internet can deliver a brand experience that makes TV feel like a manicure in a massage parlor.  And, yet, Internet advertising sinks to the lowest-possible performance denominator.

It’s a story made for TV.  Literally.  The TV guys couldn’t have scripted a better, more self-serving misuse of the technology that should be killing them.

The problem, for brands at least, traces back to the roots of the Internet.  Commercially-speaking, it was an unsponsored medium.  The Defense department funded the Internet’s early days.  No soap selling there.

At first, online hobbyists donated what content their geek-club friends could see.   Ad-free from the start, a growing audience breathed in ever more news and videos like so much air from Mother Earth.  No ads in air.  No ads on the Internet.

The Internet should have commercialized properly as audiences grew.  Surely the VCs thought as much while funding the bejesus out of every imaginable start-up in the late ‘90s.

Instead, thousands more websites emerged to feed a growing audience with ever more content, tools, applications, games.  Valuable things.  The things you’d expect to pay for.  Except you and I didn’t pay a nickel.  The VCs paid for it.  Waiting, surely, for those sites to actually make some money off of the people visiting.

Didn’t happen.  Instead:  lots of unemployed dotcom-ers and legions more hooked on free content.

By the time broke and dying publishers figured out they could make real money from their millions of site visitors, the damage was done.  The interruption-free Content Entitlement Act had been adopted by Internet nation.

And it was about to be compounded.

The basic consumer line was this:  you make me watch/experience/deal with an ad and I’ll take both eyeballs elsewhere.

Publishers blinked.  They chose audience over money.  Instead of creating ad units that people would be forced to actually see/use/engage with (also known as the kind of ads brands would pay good money for), they tucked a few more invisible banners into more and more pages.

They’ve been trying ever since to sneak brands back onto the screen in a meaningful way, and get them to pay more than what current banner ads are worth, which is basically nothing in far too many cases.

Meanwhile, Google happened. Suddenly all online advertising (or just plain all advertising?) can and should be measured for effectiveness.  Immediate effectiveness.

And, not that you’d ever accuse banner ads of contributing much to longer-term measurements anyway, but it’s a mute point in Clickopolis.

If website publishers DID actually force visitors to see/use/engage with truly interactive ad experiences, it’d take about 2 days for this conversation to happen:

Brand manager:  What’s the click through rate on that new Yahoo ad unit?

Deputy assistant brand manager:  .1%

Brand manager:  Pull it.

And, yet, with a 0.0% click through rate on that same brand manager’s TV campaign, the commercials keep rolling, $million after $million.

As we know, they don’t measure clicks on TV ads.  They measure sales and have been since TV was born 70 years ago.  Recall, TV was initially sponsored by soap, not the Department of Defense.

And why do they measure TV ads by sales?  Because TV ads actually influence the way we think and feel, which, it turns out, has a lot to do with what we buy.

The Internet could take this power of persuasion to the next level.  It offers everything TV has, plus entirely new dimensions of experience, connectedness and interaction.

But to make it work we’ll have to interrupt people’s online experience and look beyond click-through rates for measurement.

Meanwhile, marketers should spend more of that banner money on spam and junk mail.  It works better.

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