New Study Shows that Heavy Clickers Distort Reality of Display Advertising Click-Through Metrics

Starcom, Tacoda and Comscore’s “Natural Born Clickers” findings suggest “the click is dead” as go-to measurement of effectiveness for brand-building display advertising campaigns

CHICAGO, February 12,2008 – Media agency Starcom USA, behavioral targeting network Tacoda, and digital consumer insight company Comscore collaborated on a research study whose results call into question click-through rates as a primary source of accountability for Internet display advertising aimed at brand-building. Called “Natural Born Clickers,” the study reveals that a very small group of consumers who are not representative of the total U.S. online population is accountable for the vast majority of display ad click-through behavior.

Full findings of the study, its methodology and results are being presented this afternoon at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coconut Point, Florida.

The study illustrates that heavy clickers represent just 6% of the online population yet account for 50% of all display ad clicks. While many online media companies use click-through rate as an ad negotiation currency, the study shows that heavy clickers are not representative of the general public. In fact, 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.

Further preliminary Starcom data suggests no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked. The research presentation suggests that when digital campaigns have a branding objective, optimizing for high click rates does not necessarily improve campaign performance.

“There is more and more emphasis by advertisers for greater return-on-objectives in campaigns, particularly in the digital space where the accountability data is so readily available,“ says Starcom USA Director of Connections Research and Analytics Grant Prentice. “Natural Born Clickers shows us that we can’t count on click-through rate as our primary success metric for display ads; Starcom is more reliant on shifts in brand attitude metrics and analytics tying on-line exposure to sales as the true measures of online advertising efficacy.”

“While the click can continue to be a relevant metric for direct response advertising campaigns, this study demonstrates that click performance is the wrong measure for the effectiveness of brand-building campaigns,” said Erin Hunter, executive vice president at Comscore. “For many campaigns, the branding effect of the ads is what’s really important and generating clicks is more of an ancillary benefit. Ultimately, judging a campaign’s effectiveness by clicks can be detrimental because it overlooks the importance of branding while simultaneously drawing conclusions from a sub-set of people who may not be representative of the target audience.”

“One of the underlying values of looking at people and not just pages in our business is that we are able to help uncover behavior that is counterintuitive to what much of the media world assumes about online audiences,” says Daniel Jaye, CEO of TACODA.

Comscore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital world. This capability is based on a massive, global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given Comscore permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing. Comscore panelists also participate in survey research that captures and integrates their attitudes and intentions. Through its proprietary technology, Comscore measures what matters across a broad spectrum of behavior and attitudes. Comscore analysts apply this deep knowledge of customers and competitors to help clients design powerful marketing strategies and tactics that deliver superior ROI. Comscore services are used by nearly 900 clients, including global leaders such as AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo!, BBC, Carat, Cyworld, Deutsche Bank, France Telecom, Best Buy, The Newspaper Association of America, Financial Times, ESPN, Fox Sports, Nestlé, Starcom, Universal McCann, the United States Postal Service, Verizon, ViaMichelin, Merck and Expedia. For more information, please visit

Starcom USA is a full-service media division of Starcom MediaVest Group (, which is ranked one of the largest media communications agencies in the world and encompasses an integrated network of highly specialized consumer contact companies. Starcom's organization includes strategic marketing communication architects who are highly specialized in media management, response media, internet and digital communications, as well as multicultural, entertainment, sports sponsorship and event marketing and media. With over 900 employees in the U.S., Starcom delivers brand-building results for many of the world's leading companies.

TACODA®, Inc. (, a wholly owned division of AOL and a Platform A company,runs one of the worlds largest and most advanced behavioral targeting advertising networks. Since 2001, TACODA has provided a comprehensive range of behavioral targeting solutions to thousands of web publihers and brand marketers. Its patent pending technologies power TACODA Audience Networks™, which enables brand advertisers to target relevant messages to specific audience segments. TACODA Audience Networks™ has more than 4,500 sites reaching over 120 million monthly unique users. Major US media partners include Dow Jones, The New York Times Company, NBC Universal, Hoovers,,, and

Bill Daddi
Daddi Brand Communications