Why we’ll keep calling out clicks until it clicks

Posted on: Wednesday 12 February 2020 | Jon Mew, - CEO, IAB UK

Click… click… click… let’s face it, we still can’t get enough

While the growth of digital advertising has had huge benefits – driving creativity and innovation, fuelling new industries and, ultimately, supporting our free to access internet – there’s no getting away from the fact that it largely used to achieve short-term goals at the expense of longer-term effectiveness.

Whether you’re looking at CMO tenure or campaign planning, short-termism is endemic in our industry and the instant gratification of click-through rates is symptomatic of this trend. The truth is that click-through-rates tell us little about the wider context of how someone has experienced an ad. With the end of third-party cookies in site following Google’s recent announcement, we need to ensure that we are exploring alternative solutions that reflect our evolving digital ecosystem where first-party data and a quality user experience are paramount. 

To encourage a shift from clicks, IAB UK last year took a stand and called out the clickheads overemphasising the value of CTR; christening 12 February National Anti-Click-Through Rate Day and launching a Measurement Toolkit for advertisers looking to diversify their measurement strategies.

We didn’t hold back and the #Clickheads campaign had a big impact, garnering attention across the UK ad industry and further afield, with enquiries coming in from around the world. 

Yet bringing about long-lasting change is a process and we didn’t expect to transform engrained behaviour overnight. Which is why we’re back for another day of action to draw attention to the issue and combat the overuse of click-through rates – one click at a time.  

Before I carry on, a small note. I am not resolutely anti-click. This isn’t a grudge that I nurture in the small hours (that’s reserved for my neighbour’s giant wind charm). Clicks and direct response do serve a purpose for some campaigns. But they are just a small part of the picture and fixating on them leads to a warped view that does more harm than good.

Rather than chasing a vanity metric that incentivises clickbait creative, we need a more balanced approach and should be treating digital measurement like we do any other media. Yes, digital offers a level of granularity that isn’t available across all platforms, but the principles of balanced, holistic and meaningful measurement should be the same.

In the context of our evolving digital ecosystem, this approach makes a lot of sense. More and more digital formats are emerging that aren’t compatible with clicks – from podcasts to DOOH – and demand an alternative measurement approach.

Exploring alternative solutions is also all the more critical following Google’s announcement that it will be phasing out third-party cookies in the next two years. In a post-cookie world, the temptation to fall back on last click attribution could grow stronger. But with this new era of measurement we also have an opportunity to call time on clicks. We might not have all the answers straightaway, but this is our chance to build more creative and robust measurement solutions into media planning.

So, as we embark on another day of Anti-Click-Through campaigning, I urge you to explore your measurement options, challenge the clickheads and take a stand against the short-term.

 And us? We’ll see you next year. Rest assured, we’ll keep talking about it until it clicks.

Written by

Jon Mew,


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