Earlier this week, in a post entitled Why Clicks Matter, I expressed the opinion that the only sensible expectation for online display advertising is that it will generate clicks.
Now that the dirty little secret that almost no one clicks on display ads is out, one of the arguments that apologists, sales hustlers, and people who don't understand advertising drag out is "oh yeah, well nobody ever clicked on a TV spot."
There are several reasons this argument is appallingly stupid and disingenuous.
First is the most obvious. TV doesn't rely on "interactivity" for its effectiveness. TV spots have a 60-year history of building brands -- thousands of them in hundreds of categories -- without the magic of interactivity.
Display ads have nothing. In the 15-year history of online display advertising is there a single instance of a major brand of anything being built by display ads? It is perfectly clear to anyone with a functioning cortex that display ads rely on interactivity for their value. TV spots don't.
Second, when traditional advertising is lousy at motivating people, agencies always haul out the "branding" argument. This is what the display ad crowd is now trying to do. They are trying to sell us the idea that display advertising is brilliant for "branding" -- whatever the hell that means. Only a blind fool believes this nonsense. Every study ever done tells the same story -- display ads are essentially invisible.
Finally, as Harvey Briggs points out here, whether we admit it or not, TV spots are part of the content. Everyone is willing to acknowledge this on Super Bowl Sunday, but the other 364 days we pretend it's not true. Display ads are clearly not part of the content. They are barely even part of the page.
The argument that "nobody ever clicked on a TV spot" is the witless, desperate argument of apologists for an over-hyped, marginally effective mode of advertising. It has the intellectual integrity of asserting that Babe Ruth was a lousy athlete because he never scored a touchdown.
Amazingly, there are naifs throughout the marketing industry dense enough to accept it.