A lot troubles me about the advertising revenue base that props up large amounts of the Internet. The lack of any solid information on the success or failure of these type of ads causes alarm bells for me. When I try to find any serious research on the topic, it either doesn’t exist or is so drowned out by SEO search results that its impossible to find.
I was reading a post on the zephoria blog that asks the question about clickable ads in particular. The research Zephoria has done indicates that the clickers are pretty much the same people that open direct mail and talk to telemarketers. A rich vein of opportunity fro snake oil salesmen and 419ers, but not great news for those wanting to launch credible campaigns.
He links in the article to a study performed by AOL on the demographics of ‘ad clickers’ as evidence for this categorisation. The lack of solid evidence he has though is not to detract from his efforts, but an indictment on the lack of information advertisers, sites and agregators are willing to give out.
This does not mean that advertising on the Internet is ineffective, but that click-through rates are untrustworthy if you are not after the overly-trusting demographic. This makes it all the more important that a lot of thought goes into any campaign. Podcasts seem to me to lead the way in this at the moment. This is at least partly due to the newness of the media, and the slow adoption rate. The real key though is in the true interaction required for the message to be delivered.
Podcasts and Internet video require active consumption to be seen. The advertising there needs to be heard and registered by the listener, and it cannot be forced into their face in the same way a popup or banner ad can. Advertisers are forced to think about the fit between the content of the podcast and their product and message, which delivers a better result for them if they do it right. Some web sites and some web campaigns do this as well, but they are in the minority
I am not a fan of companies that have high valuations based on ad-based revenue, the questions that exist around the whole Internet advertising paradigm cause me to feel those valuations are tenuous at best. Its time for the bandaid to be ripped off and the details of Internet advertising effectiveness to be known. Then the industry can grow and improve in a more sustainable fashion.