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Stuck With Sticky

  |  December 28, 2001   |  Comments

Sticky sites: Good for advertisers, or do they mire down other brands?

Web sites that sell advertising desire a quality we call "stickiness." That's the quality that makes users stick around and spend more time on a site, generating more impressions, rather than speeding off into Cyberspace.

Seana Mulcahy wrote a nice piece on this recently here on ClickZ, asking readers whether stickiness is desirable for someone buying ads. Naturally, someone selling ads would enjoy a high degree of stickiness, as it would provide more impressions to sell. But buyers? I have to come down on the negative side.

Seana listed four site strategies to increase stickiness:

  • Provide content a user really wants.

  • Allow the user to personalize the site.

  • Build online communities where users can post information or create groups.

  • Invite user feedback in response to content.

All of these tools involve the user in the site's brand, not the advertiser's. Instead of jumping off to your own www.brandx.com site (the epitome of anti-sticky activity), the user instead sticks around the content site. Your advertiser may be recognized in a branding context, but direct response figures will be disappointing.

Sticky sites tend to have a much higher impressions-to-unique-user ratio. This causes a much higher degree of frequency, another factor responsible for low direct response rates.

Some brands are seeking the brand recognition of the impression rather than direct response activity. For those advertisers, stickiness can be a good thing for indirect reasons. A sticky site generally holds great interest for its users. These sites, cultivating loyal visitors, may possess higher brand standing themselves. It could, theoretically, rub off on advertisers, even if visitors aren't directly responding to ads.

I find this a bit of a stretch. It would work in only rare circumstances, when content is so highly branded itself that a trickle-down effect could reach the advertising brands.

Were I selling media, I would downplay stickiness figures, except when an advertiser is running a branding campaign. In that case, sticky works. It juxtaposes branding elements of the site's content, and of the site's own brand identity, onto the advertiser.


Tig Tillinghast

Tig Tillinghast helped start and run some of the industry's largest interactive divisions. He started out at Leo Burnett, joined J. Walter Thompson to run its interactive division out of San Francisco, and wound up building Anderson & Lembke's interactive group as well.

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