Sorry, No Transfers.

This past Tuesday I keynoted the iMedia Agency Summit in Austin, Texas, with "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas," ideas widely accepted about the digital marketing industry that, if left unquestioned and unchecked, will cripple our ability to create real value and stymie our imagination of what's possible. In looking at the Twitter feed from the event (#imediasummit), I was able to see the themes that really popped for the audience, and one seemed to rise above the others:

Dead Idea Number Two: "Moving people around the Web." Given today's technology, bandwidth, flash creative and serving infrastructure, you can deliver what used to be a website, jump page or Microsite experience right in the ad, right on the page, and right where the consumer paying attention. This sounds a lot more sensible that forcing them to abandon their experience and hightail it to somewhere else. The line from my talk that seemed to really get a lot of traction was this:

"There's a reason we call it an impression, not a transfer."

But insisting that consumers clickthrough to visit websites and other resources isn't just a waste of creative firepower, it's economic suicide that relegates the value - and earning potential - of what we do to a footnote -- a rounding error -- on the marketing budget. To illustrate the point I asked the crowd to write down four numbers:

10,000 (that's TEN THOUSAND in case you're reading small type); this is the number of ad impressions with which we begin the exercise. Ten thousand moments of consumer engagement and attention to the screens and content they've asked to see.

9,975; at the current average industry clickthrough rate of one-quarter-of-one-percent (.0025), this is the number of impressions you simply throw away in order to produce 25 clicks.

78; one case study - a success story! - presented at iMedia boasted a 78% increase in the clickthrough rate. This takes us to the final number....

9,956; that 78% increase in the click rate (driven by leveraging demand platform technology) produced a whopping 19 more clicks. So now, in the shadow of "success," we're only throwing away 9,956 consumer impressions.

No wonder everybody's so depressed. Make no mistake; burning through inventory with the ultimate goal of maximizing a click through rate is our industry's version of strip mining. Problem with digital strip mining, of course, is that it treats all that inventory - all those billions of pages and consumer interactions - as just so much slag; Waste material to be discarded. It also has an obviously detrimental impact on the landscape - both economically and visually. It causes us to carpet-bomb consumers with a mind-numbing frequency of "click me" ads. It wastes the time and talent of the publisher's sales and service organization, and pulls agencies away from their real missions of strategy and creativity. It prevents us from really exploring the true value of the impression itself.

There's no right way to do the wrong thing. Unless and until we walk away from the dead idea of optimizing to the click, unless we set the expectation for click rate at zero, I believe our creative and economic potential will go unfulfilled.