Monday, August 11, 2014

Display ad click through rate - courtesy of John Oliver

It's not often I discover the latest benchmark rates for display ads while watching HBO, having a glass of wine and trying to forgot about what I deal with for a living. But last week on Last Week Tonight I was confronted with advertising stats out of the blue from my favorite weekly news source Mr. Oliver. 

Now considering this was news from #doubleclick in April I should have known this already and as a user of the internet I should know how rarely (never) I click on ads myself. The rate of .17% seemed even lower than I imagined but then again it's not much worse than our "targeted" acquisition email campaigns for a large wireless carrier that will remain unnamed but that falls later in the alphabet than the other three large wireless carriers. Our email campaigns have a response rate of .22% on a good day. 

Oliver's joke about what happens when you click a banner ad (AKA display ad) taking you to a site that insists you must need help and an ambulance has been called is probably not far from the truth. 

The facts he shares next are no surprise to those who browse the news online and find that series of images at the bottom or side with teasing tag lines that in turn will take you through a paid advertisement for a weight loss product endorsement. These thinly veiled sponsored content pieces garner better click rates but what is the conversion I wonder?


Native advertising or branded content basically drives all the revenue for online media channels like BuzzFeed and now companies like Time Inc and even now the Los Angeles Times. Native advertising blends in so well as legitimate news content on the sites that less than half the visitors to the sites can tell news content from sponsored ad content. 

While this may be good news for struggling old media companies like newspapers and news magazines it is a bit alarming as to the future state of journalism in this country. Time Inc has effectively dismissed the notion of editors and advertisers being completely separate entities, how soon before journalists and ad men are one and the same?

Others that have lost objective separation of their advertising unit and the editorial unit are The Atlantic, The New York Times (Chevron sponsored articles already appeared), and many more will follow. "Press can't be free and independent if we aren't willing to pay for it. And it seems no one is willing to pay for it." - John Oliver