Only Stupid People Click Internet Ads

does anyone click on web ads?I was watching a video on YouTube the other day, you know, one of those videos where a text ad in the lower-fifth of the screen pops up. With sharpshooter accuracy, I hovered the mouse over the small, boxed “X” and clicked. It all happened in less than an instant and I went back to watching my video.

Afterward, I reflected on all the ads that were thrown in my face that never even got a chance, thanks to my shark-like instincts to kill anything that looks like an ad. The year 2002 was an especially good year to hone this skill, as it was around that time that those annoying spy-cam ads spawned instantaneously all over the web.

Who actually clicks these ads?

I tried to visualize who was clicking those slap-the-monkey, punch-the-boxer ads. And who was clicking those unbearable inline text ads (the kind that creates links from random words in a blog post).

A rough answer to that question is as follows:

  • people ages 25-44
  • sub $40’000 income
  • frequent auctions, gambling, career services sites

I found it strange that these were people who spent 4x more time online than regular users, and yet they were clicking more. Wouldn’t they develop banner blindness? That just goes to show that exposure doesn’t equal savvy.

Are they stupid?

Is it really fair to say that they are stupid? From the comScore piece, this “clicking” demographic strikes me as the same type that compulsively buys lotto and sweepstakes tickets. These folks don’t know how to handle their money, are lower-middle-class, and spend way too much time on the internet.

Their wanton clicking (with no commensurate increase in purchases) would certainly lead some advertisers to call them stupid, as in, those darn people who cost me money but never buy anything. The real losers here are the advertisers: clicks buy traffic, not intentions.

Gen Y, The Anti-Clickers

Word-of-mouth and Google are basically all you need to know when Gen Y is looking to buy a product. When I was in the market for a DSLR, I asked around, got some opinions and went to look up reviews on the cameras I shortlisted. After some searching, I went out to a brick-and-mortar store and bought it. Ads never played a part in the entire process.

It can be said that previous advertising had thrown Canon and Nikon as the two main contenders for my money, but I could have easily been swayed by good reviews for a Sony on a third-party, neutral website. (I ended up buying a Canon).

It’s incredibly hard to reach Generation Y through online ads, even when you hit them where they hang out.

I’m definitely on-board with those that say that the pay-per-click model is dead, or needs to die.

Further reading:
The end of the free lunch—again (The Economist)
Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet (TechCrunch)

Photo by Davichi

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  • I’m Brenda Whiteside

    Remember pop-ups? Fortunately a lot of those disappeared with some Web 2.0 solutions but they (and the nonsensical Youtube video splashes) just remind me of greasy used car salespeople and relentless telemarketers. I classify them all the same way. And the susceptible market is definitely the uneducated. Stupid? No. Just ignorant of the hidden agendas and scores of manipulative techniques the slimy advertisers and salespeople of our world employ.

    I also think – and this is just paraphrasing the obvious – that the monkey slap-ads, etc, are strongly charged by accidental clicks as well. Your sharpshooter accuracy is a talent we should all aspire to acheive to put an end to these things once and for all!!

  • http://www.getinsyght.com Bret Bernhoft

    Very interesting article, however, I would completely disagree with your notion that Generation Y does not respond to click ads. The idea that all click ads are made the same is silly. While it is true that a good portion of click ads are ineffective, Generation Y responds well to one key type of ad, that is contextual interactive “click ads”. These types of ads are not placed in places where people would try avoiding them, such as banners or coupons. These ads are part of the interaction with the website.

    By clicking on these “ads” you are capable of delivering your information for a follow up at a later point. Every Facebook App, every iPhone App, each form and every contest is a click ad.

    Sorry to say it but you might be wrong on this one.

  • http://www.themarketingstudent.com/ David Fallarme

    Bret, you and I are actually on the same page. The study cited in this article refers to the “old school” internet ads, which is to say, banners, popups, adsense, etc, where one of the ad’s objectives is to distract the user from the experience.

    The ads you’re referring to are absolutely what we need more of…contextual items that are part of the experience. The user is engaged first, and then advertised to second.

  • http://www.loyolamarketing.info sebatheepan

    you are almost right. i started a blog and put up adsense advertistments ..the clickk through rates are very low..there will be 150 viewers but no clicks..this shows that annoying ads made people to skip looking what is there.. some people block ads using adblock plus add on.. aged people and people who is very new to online reading may click them unknowingly.

    i am a marketing student .i find it useful. as you are an experrt you can help up understand about marketing . in our student marketing blog

    please visit
    http://www.loyolamarketing.info
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  • roflcopter

    Smart people install AdblockPlus and don’t see ads.

  • http://twitter.com/alexcliff0rd Alex Clifford

    Haha Dave! That made me laugh! I completely agree with your point about only stupid people clicking ads.

    The thing is – online, we don’t want to be intruded upon or interrupted. Those of us who are wise, get rid of these ads and just ignore them.

    I think it’s all about relevancy. If somebody can offer you ad which really speaks to you and offers you some content, before trying to sell – then I think ads can be interesting and valuable. But like you say, ads that get in the way are annoying, and usually don’t play a part in your purchasing decision.

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