This isn’t something the traditional digital advertising industry wants to hear (and yes, there is such a thing as “traditional” digital advertising.) Clicks equal cash goes the maxim, though those selling clicks are the ones who make the real cash – not necessarily the companies trying to get customers to click on their ads.
The evidence is everywhere. A recent study published in AdAge found virtually no relationship between a click and an actual conversion; time spent viewing or hovering over the ads actually scored better.
Insisting that clicks on ads equals campaign success is flawed logic at best. Said the CEO of the company that commissioned the aforementioned study: “My key takeaway is that optimizing to viewable impressions or hover time is a better proxy for a brand advertiser than a click-through rate.”
True, however there is a larger trend here than all direct marketers turning into brand advertisers (itself a scary thought.) The real impact, and the key trend to watch, is all about time.
Capturing Your “Share of Time”
In a way, marketing has always been about time. For decades there wasn’t much of a need to measure time, since there were so few media options. The focus was on audience numbers, whether than audience spent a few minutes or a few hours with your programming.
No longer. We now have infinite choices and channels; media is unbundled and fragmented. With so much choice the “impression” is now meaningless – it’s not a true indicator of brand recall or connection.
All that matters is time. And time is what we need to measure. Forget the click – today, it’s all about the clock.
The path to earning greater “share of time” online is through storytelling and engagement that taps into people’s emotions. This is a large reason why video – especially short-form and serialized stories – continues to expand. As a recent Fast Company article noted, people are spending at least 22 hours a month watching online video, a number from April that’s certainly even higher now and will continue to rise.
Good marketing is good storytelling, and stories capture people’s attention – and their time – far better than a static direct-response banner ad. Stories that go beyond one-way interaction and tap into more immersive and participatory transmedia, such as USA Networks’ “Sights Unseen” adventure, not only capture time but bring people into a brand experience that traditional online marketing tactics simply could never hope to achieve.
Fish where the fish are, the saying goes – this too is about time. Print, radio and TV use is declining while Internet and mobile steadily rise. More people today go online via mobile devices than their PCs.
Time is about place as well as engagement. It’s about earning attention and trust, not expecting it. And most of all, it’s about accepting that the audience has moved on even if your marketing is still stuck in the past.
Watch the clock, not the click. Spend your time measuring what matters.