Friday, August 22, 2008

Beggar's banquet

Seth Godin is an insightful commentator on marketing. He had a post that made me laugh, though perhaps not for the right reason.

You can read it here, but essentially, he advocates clicking online ads as if you were dropping a few cents into a tip jar. More an acknowledgement of the content provider's efforts than an interest in what's being advertised. That's a funny way to think about advertising's role...and yet it perfectly points out how transparent the online world makes things.

On the one hand, online display advertising is having difficulty sustaining CPM rates (as previously posted here)...if all you are selling is attention, then dropping a few cents into a tip jar is hardly the kind of attention an advertiser is willing to pay top dollar for. They are buying awareness, perception and, even sales online. If the intent in clicking is the equivalent of dropping loose change in a jar--a nearly thoughtless activity--one can wonder if that's what an advertiser is banking on. It isn't exactly attention.

On the other hand, if someone allows ads on their site, then presumably they are reaping a share of the revenue associated with a this case, the advertiser's needs are still unserved, though of course the content provider's are at the expense of the advertiser. If the content provider receives compensation for a page view (as in a CPM model), then the advertiser has already paid for the content with your impression...tip click required.

When advertising online is reduced to the equivalent of a charitable contribution, the economics of the enterprise resemble Robin Hood, where the contribution one makes with their click is paid with someone else's money. When advertising an action with the needs of the advertiser, the content provider, AND the one doing the clicking, the economics look more like search marketing...and more like a business.

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