Who clicks on ads? And what might this mean?
January 7th, 2008

Advertising is the bread and butter of the web, yet many claim that they never click on ads, typically using a peacock tone that signals their pride in being ad-averse. But somebody must be clicking, since Google etc are making bilions. Who are they, asks Danah Boyd.

A few years back, I asked this question to someone who worked in the world of web ads and I received a snarky (and condescending) answer: middle America. Over the years, I’ve read all sorts of speculations about search engine ads suggesting that people click on ads:

– Because they don’t know that they’re ads.
– Because they are perceived to be of greater quality than the actual search results (for example, in searches for travel).
– When they’re searching for something that they want to purchase (intent to buy = desire to get to merchants quickly).
– When they’re bored.
– When they think that they might win something or get something for free.

Over the summer, Dave Morgan (AOL Global Advertising Strategy) blogged about a study that they did to investigate who clicks on ads:

What did we learn? A lot. We learned that most people do not click on ads, and those that do are by no means representative of Web users at large.

Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks.

Who are these “heavy clickers”? They are predominantly female, indexing at a rate almost double the male population. They are older. They are predominantly Midwesterners, with some concentrations in Mid-Atlantic States and in New England. What kinds of content do they like to view when they are on the Web? Not surprisingly, they look at sweepstakes far more than any other kind of content. Yes, these are the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers.

[via Lunch over IP]


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