Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Who Clicks On Ads?

Any conversation about digital marketing generally gets around to the fact that companies like Google are making a ton of money from people clicking on online advertising. The invariable next question is “Who clicks on all those ads anyway?”

This study by Starcom sheds a little more light on the issue:

“The study illustrates that heavy clickers represent just 6% of the online population yet account for 50% of all display ad clicks.”


“Heavy clickers skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with an income under $40,000. Heavy clickers behave very differently online than the typical Internet user, and while they spend four times more time online than non-clickers, their spending does not proportionately reflect this very heavy Internet usage. Heavy clickers are also relatively more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career services sites – a markedly different surfing pattern than non-clickers.”

From another study done by AOL, Dave Morgan, head of advertising strategy, describes heavy clickers the follow way:

“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.”

They also found that:

“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.”

This post on, uses a point from the Starcom study to distinguish between equity driven display ads that do well in delivering on branding objectives, versus the online call to action ads that want you to “Punch the Monkey” that are the type that attract most of the “Natural Born Clickers” the study cites.

The important thing behind all this research is that the meaning to an advertiser of a click, or even a whole month of clicks, is minimal. Depending on the type of campaign, online conversion rates may be more important, or maybe significant movement in some sort of brand affinity measure.

But unless your target demographic looks like the narrow one above, a simple click is probably not worth very much at all.


1 robojiannis { 02.14.08 at 9:41 am }

Very interesting. I hadn’t imagined that even in ad-clicking we are actually dealing with a power law; it seems power laws apply everywhere!

2 Paul M. Banas { 02.14.08 at 8:11 pm }

You are very right. It is very hard to escape a Pareto distribution in any large sample of behavior. And when that behavior isn’t what you wanted in the first place, well the phrase involving “up a creek, without a paddle” comes to mind!

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