Web registration puts off surfers

Having read Brian Powley’s column on how Website auditing is key to winning advertisers trust, feel unusually moved to respond, as I find myself both in whole-hearted agreement and violent disagreement with each of his main arguments.

Auditing of Websites is, of course, going to be more and more vital as banner advertising grows. The only two reasons for a site owner being reluctant to have auditing on its statistics are cost and having something to hide (in other words not quite as many real impressions as claimed).

As the ad market grows, cost should become less of an issue, although it won’t take care of those prone to exaggeration. The cost issue should also diminish with regards to adserving, as the cost of the technology falls.

Demanding that sites force users to register, however, is a different kettle of fish. Brian seems to have forgotten that one of the most important factors in developing good impression rates is encouraging return visits.

People place a lot of emphasis on their “experience” when making judgments about a particular Website and the hassle of logging in is generally regarded as a negative factor. If a site visitor is going to have to log in to a site every time they visit, there has to be a good reason for it – premium content and the like. However, in the context of his column, we are offering the user nothing new, only the advertiser gains any benefits (and maybe the site owner, through better ad sales).

This is rather akin to a supermarket making their customers use a loyalty card (no choice) and offering no discounts or benefits. Try this and see how quickly customers look for another source of their desired products.

The same is true of Websites – the fickle browser wants as little interference as possible and does not want to have to remember a huge list of user names and passwords just to gain entry to their favourite sites, unless they receive something of value in return.

It can be argued that this is the job of the site owner, anyway. But it must be assumed the site owners are in the best position to judge their users preferences and the decision to force registration must be theirs alone, not driven by the needs of advertisers.

Alienating the user base in an attempt to gather better demographic information will cause a drop in the beloved impression rates and will, thus, end up being self-defeating. Retrospective imposition of these mechanisms is a lazy and uncreative response to the problem.

What the industry requires is for advertisers to come up with some more creative ways of adding value to the Web experience, instead of demanding that site owners do it for them.

Most owners and producers (like myself) would gladly welcome any opportunity to develop ideas with media buyers, rather than be forced into using techniques that will annoy genuine customers.

The role of any full-service agency is to use media creatively. In the case of the Web, this means understanding the medium and respecting the preferences of the user community.

Duncan Clubb

Managing director

OffWorld Industries

London WC1

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