Click-throughs, Privacy, and the Trust Economy

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There’s a dirty little secret in advertising: for all the talk of targeting and personalization, the average click through rate of an online ad hasn’t changed that much in the last 10 years.

The traditional banner ad set the bar low, around .03%, which was considered successful for a long time; even now with rich media ads (embedded photos, videos etc.) a successful campaign typically runs from .15% to .25%.

There’s also evidence that the delivery of impressions isn’t improving much either. Every time an ad is served to a potential viewer, it’s considered an impression; they aren’t improving much lately.

While these failures don’t come with the hard costs of traditional efforts (direct mail had envelopes and stamps, online ads have servers and platform maintenance), they come with a deeper, just as tangible cost: trust and attention from the viewer.

Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer more customization and control, but because they are online communities, the traditional models for serving ads have to be balanced against larger relationships, something advertisers are not well versed at doing.

Collecting reams of information about audiences and customers only goes so far, and now many audiences purposefully hide their actions due to well founded privacy concerns. In other words, the current ecosystem for advertising and sponsored content effectively pits brands against consumers, when it should be finding ways to align them.

And the more that tracking and targeting with data dominates, the more consumers become aware of the amount of information being collected, and how it’s used. The demand is increasing for tools and disclosures to help protect their information, and have a say in how it’s used.

In Canada, for example, CASL is forcing brands to give audiences more control over how and when their information is accessed for email marketing. Added to the high demand for tools like Do Not Track, a consumer focused ecosystem will force brands to address security and privacy concerns.

It’s easy to grumble about government interference and other forms of pressure from outside the advertising industry, but the most damning form of feedback actually comes from consumers, where poor impression and click-through rates suggest consumers aren’t getting content that matters to them or the privacy protections they need.

In a few excerpts below from her recent book Evolve!  ARCOMPANY Founder & CEO Hessie Jones digs into why and how privacy is shifting for both marketers/brands and their audiences, as well as what’s likely coming down the road…


Perhaps the only phrase more used and abused in the tech and marketing technology space than “Internet of Things” is “Big Data.” In itself, Big Data means very little. It is merely the massive collection of information that resides out in cyberspace, waiting to be somehow organized, visualized, contextualized and “Ized” in some other TBD capacity.

It comes down to what you do with it, otherwise it is like an English major staring at endless strings of PHP or Java: totally meaningless.

However, Big Data has created a revolutionary approach to marketing. It is our online behavior that helps brands and organizations learn about us in ways that they can contextualize and apply to their marketing strategies. Since this became apparent, marketers have been seeking ways to exploit it. In a world where the web is moving from search to semantic, it is without question our data that makes this possible. In a later chapter about the collision between search and social, we introduce the semantic web and the marriage that is taking place among Big Data, Semantic Search and User Generated Content that is shifting the way we explore the web.

If you recognize this possibility, you will quickly realize that for the web to be semantic, it is dependent upon us as users to feed it our data. And in order for the web to collect our data we need to voluntarily (if not knowingly) give up our privacy so websites and brands can sell and use it to create this new online experience.



They don’t trust the use of their information. Their consent or lack thereof is being undermined.

As a marketer I have written about the value of Big Data and how it will change advertising as we know it.  I was quite excited about the possibilities of being able to gain more context into the behavior and conversations that people share online, and apply it to the current ad targeting capabilities.

One of the users sharing a post I wrote on privacy posed it this way:

I did request a meeting to get a deeper viewpoint from Dave Cheevers, but we have yet to connect. However, after absorbing his perspective, it dawned on me just how in-the-dark the average consumer has been about the use of their information.

Edward Snowden, in many ways, opened up a Pandora’s Box by bringing into public scrutiny what has been in play for many years. He awakened the average consumer and forced them to understand the impact on their security and personal rights and freedoms.



The freedom to express opinion and judgement without feeling guarded, or without fearing others linking you to a statement is indeed liberating. And while this free rein may take the form of a soapbox lecture or criticisms (and perhaps bullying attacks) against opposing views, there is a large segment of users who want the ability to share a secret, or have a place to vent their frustrations or challenges — without the fear of reprisal.

BF Skinner laid out this challenge succinctly when he disclosed his theories on Operant Conditioning. The promise or possibility of rewards causes an increase in behaviour ….The removal of a desirable outcome or the application of a negative outcome can be used to decrease or prevent undesirable behaviours.

This new medium has created is an endless, volatile loop of positive and negative reinforcement. While transparency has extreme benefits, there are just as many negative consequences that have come as a result of creating this honesty within social channels.

Society continues to send the wrong message to Millennials and the next generation, Z warning them to be more discerning and to suppress who they really are as individuals… warning them of the potential consequences should they venture down the wrong path.

How we communicate today poses tremendous issues for this younger generation. Their experiences are grounded in the fear of being vulnerable… fear of being misjudged… fear of not being accepted… fear of being punished.


ArCompany works with C-suite leaders across the United States and Canada to align brand reputation and insights gathering so that companies can go from creating at customers to creating with them. If you’d like to learn more about working with us, say hi.


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