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