The Mouse That Clicked

A company sued Google and Yahoo over click-based advertising fees. My degree is in Advertising and Marketing so here is my take.

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Let's look at the advertising question first. Ads are all about exposure. Exposure leads to awareness and hopefully to familiarity and use. Billboards cost from $600 to $5000 for a 90 day period based on location. What number of times of exposure do marketing studies prove that it takes for a person to notice a new billboard:

A) first time
B) five times
C) twenty times
D) thirty times

The answer is C: twenty exposures.

In theory, your board could be out there for three weeks of the 10 week run before most people who pass it daily actually notice it.

The exposure gamble also comes to play in other print media as well as broadcast advertising and direct mail. Each with its pros and cons. Traditionally radio is by far the most effective cost/exposure medium (usually 4-7 exposures create recognition) assuming you go to the right stations.

The number of exposures is why the Super Bowl charges big bucks. It's also a reason why NBA, Olympics and Baseball are having problems because of declining ratings. No ratings means no exposures mean nobody wants to pay to advertise because they can't see any benefits.

Internet sites rely on numeric tracking of people clicking on your link. Fees are based on a straight out per click, with prices ranging from fractions of a penny on up. The good news is I know EXACTLY how many times my advertisement was exposed. The bad news is why this case is going to be a big deal. The specifics of the case revolve around this premise:

"But sometimes mischief makers and scam artists repeatedly click on specific advertising links even though they have no intentions of buying anything. The motives for the malicious activity known as click fraud vary widely, but the net effect is the same: advertisers end up paying for fruitless Web traffic."

My educated advertising question based on the wording above is as follows: Is my effort to support the Drudge Report by clicking the advertisers on his webpage (that I have little or no interest of ever spending any money with) also fraud? Drudge isn't Google, but he's making something off those clicks. Is there any difference?

I strongly suspect that the answer to my question is that I am helping Drudge to fraud someone. This $90 million settlement will have a long term impact on how sites are compensated for click thru, and may very will have a dramatic impact on web revenues.

(There ya go II, something not Iran-Iraq-Hillary-Abortion.)