The Emperor Has No Clicks: Don’t Stick with Clicks

a.kiThe other day I met the Head of Digital marketing for a Fortune 100 major financial institution. We were having coffee and discussing the future of digital marketing. Even though we were talking about mobile, this person was laser-focused on one thing and one thing only: Click-through rates. Their goal was to avoid the notorious low CTRs of display advertising and so they were making campaign and creative decisions based on that objective.

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As the founder of a mobile advertising platform, I found myself in an awkward, but not unfamiliar position. How do I tell this individual, who has an indisputable track record of success in marketing, that this fundamental mobile strategy would steer their business in the wrong direction for years to come? How could I cure this addiction to clicks?

It was not an isolated experience. For lack of a better metric and the simple truth that old habits die hard, click-through continues to hold its position as the center of the digital and mobile ad universe. It’s been around a long time. It’s easy to measure. It’s easy to understand.

But, at the same time, ‘clicking’ is not an experience that consumers seek out. It rarely creates value or delight. And, far too often, it happens by accident in mobile. This makes click-through about as effective a means of gauging the success of a campaign as a stubbed toe serves to measure the success of a coffee table.

You know this. We all know this. Why can’t we act on it?

Too Eager To “Click” With Marketers?

Which brings me back to that coffee meeting. If you’ve ever been on the technology side of the marketing equation, you know that your audience is weary.

Call it Lumascape-fatigue or just general skepticism, but there are enough solutions out there that it’s really easy for agencies and marketers to, essentially, ‘swipe left’ without a ton of consideration. (This is totally fair; marketers are navigating through a ton of redundancy in the ad tech space and, further, instincts play an important role in business decisions.)

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But, this dynamic can make it difficult to push back on the decisions, like CTR, that are guiding ad spend—particularly for those doing the groundwork on individual campaigns.

It’s worth asking if we, as an industry, are moving too quickly to ask the right questions. At a time when there’s really no arguing that mobile is the dominant medium, are we putting the health of businesses at risk for the sake of a meaningless metric?

This question is answered over and over; it’s answered in fat finger studies, documented ad fraud and click-farms, consumer feedback, and the rise in ad blocking.

Data and intuition alike are telling us that we’re limiting the success of marketing, aggravating people and threatening the long-term health of ad-supported content. The emperor has no clicks, yet we all keep coming back to count them.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This isn’t the first appeal of its kind, but we need to do more than write about this problem. Those of us who spend our days and nights considering what it means to engage a consumer and how to build positive and productive brand/consumer/content relationships need to be willing to tell CMOs and other leaders why they need to break the click-through habit.

And, we need to ensure that message reaches everyone in the ecosystem so that agencies, vendors and everyone in the trenches aren’t measuring their own professional success against an obsolete metric.

But, most importantly, we need to offer different, stronger and smarter solutions that make advertising better for all involved. This is an industry-wide problem and we need to tackle it together by having an honest conversation about what it means to be successful in mobile. Who’s game?

Recommended ReadTech Bytes with Scott Swanson, CEO of Aki Technologies

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