Are we making people click on ads?

Our current generation of digital media technologists has an ongoing debate, and perhaps a moral dilemma, over “making people click ads.” Some of us prefer to say that we are enticing or encouraging users to click ads, without actually “making” them do so.

Is that just double-speak? What is the difference between “getting” somebody to do something and “making” them do it? We use the latter phrase not only when people literally have guns pointed to their heads, but whenever they are subject to a clear case of coercion or overwhelming leverage, such as when threatened with arrest, being shouted at, etc. We perhaps stretch the term when we say, “That tasteless joke made me change the channel” or “The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and croissants that had come right out of the oven made me linger an extra thirty minutes.”

In the latter cases we don’t mean it literally “made me” do such and such, but that it virtually did. It had the same result as if I’d been coerced (even though I wasn’t).

Well, when we optimize the daylights out of an ad so as to maximize clicks, aren’t we virtually making people click the ad? And if so, isn’t that evil?

We ask this question at Temnos because, more often than not, our partner developers use our platform to increase click-through rates on some form of ad or content marketing piece. We’re part of this debate as to whether that’s something to be proud of, or ashamed of.

I can say anecdotally of the particular projects we’ve been a part of, that I am proud of every single one. It’s because I’m positive that  increased clicks have been properly earned as the natural effect of giving users better content, better clarity, or both. I don’t think this is the case with all Web-based marketing efforts. But our projects (and our partners’ projects) are all about the richness and relevance of content, not manipulating people’s index fingers.  We’re either replacing something not worth clicking on with something that is, or we’re revealing more accurately what is click-worthy about an item of content.

I’ll explain more about that in an upcoming post.

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