The Web is not just another medium, another channel. More than anything it is another culture, another way of living and thinking.
If you sat a mathematics exam and got 3% would you be happy? Probably not. But those who create banner ads think a 3% click-through rate is amazing. In fact, they'd be ecstatic with a 1% click-through rate.
"Readers hate online advertisements," Patrick B. Pexton recently wrote in The Washington Post. "I do, too. We know they pay the freight, but they are intrusive, incessant and irritating. Encountering online ads is like being at a carnival and playing whack-a-mole.
"Look out! On your right, your cursor just touched a rollover ad, which suddenly fills your screen. Quick, move the cursor away. Oh no, you accidentally clicked on a banner ad, and you're navigating away from the news." That's according to Patrick B. Pexton, The Washington Post Ombudsman.
Online banner ads are becoming more and more intrusive in order to trick us into clicking on them. They'll do anything for a click-through. "Call it banner advertising or call it display advertising," Mitch Joel recently wrote, "if you look at the data: consumers are just not that into it."
So why do advertisers keep doing it? For the same reason spammers keep sending spam. 1% can still represent a lot of people. But what about the remaining 99%? How many of those people did you annoy? If you're a spammer you don't care. If you're not a spammer, you should.
A number of years ago the Microsoft Excel website made a very important breakthrough in its management model. It had been measuring satisfaction with its pages and was finding that practically all pages had at least some level of satisfaction. However, the overall website was struggling.
Then it did something very clever. It started measuring satisfaction and dissatisfaction with its pages and comparing the two. Now, it was getting a very different picture. 15 people might have been satisfied with Page A but 300 people were dissatisfied with it.
The world has changed. People have changed. A great many people today live hectic and interesting lives. These people are not on the Web as passive, submissive consumers waiting for a banner ad to signpost where they should go with their lives. These are active, driven, highly impatient people who know exactly why they're on the Web and what they want to do.
When was the last time you went to Google and said: "Hey, someone give me a word. I just don't know what to search for."
There's nothing wrong with advertising once it's contextual. We don't hate Google ads because they appear in the context of what we have just searched for. These ads are often helpful. If you book a flight to Rome then you see an ad for hotels in Rome, that's perfectly fine.
Today's consumer expects you to fit into their world. They have no desire to fit into yours. They do not like companies who annoy them. The next time your ad agency trumpets its 1% conversion rate, spare a thought for the 99% you annoyed. Because they may remember you.