The Benefits of Click-Bait Ads and Why They Don’t Always Work


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Click-bait ads have been a rampant facet of digital advertising ever since its early beginnings – around 2006 when Jay Geiger invented the word. They reel users in with flashy, flamboyant titles and pictures, but the content on the other side never lives up to the hype. 

Ads that exhibit click-baity characteristics commonly receive considerable amounts of backlash due to their misleading nature. Overwhelming advertisements combined with underwhelming content doesn’t equal happy consumers. It doesn’t take someone with an MBA to solve that simple equation.

So why even consider click-bait advertising? Why wouldn’t you consider them? Do they even matter? 


Why Click-Bait Ads (Sometimes) Work

Click-bait ads, by definition, bait users to click on them. These ads present users with theatrical and urgent titles, taglines, and subtexts that shove users towards a call-to-action. For more impressionable consumers, these ads work. Click-bait ads catch the attention of unsuspecting victims and turn them into interaction metrics. These ads don’t care about the individual consumer, but they work – sometimes

Click-bait ads are burdened with sensationalism that makes them completely unrealistic, but they produce traffic. Traffic can mean a lot of things to companies, particularly those that do business with advertisers. Pageviews, traffic, and clicks can and will be lucrative instruments for any website that produces content.   

So, should you use click-bait ads for your business or product? The honest answer – probably not.  

What some advertisers don’t know is that click-bait ads are slowly, but surely, phasing out due to a variety of wavering factors.

Google Rules

96% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, according to Curvearro. For a multi-billion dollar company, ad revenue is more than essential for Google’s operations and survival. As the top beneficiary for programmatic or PPC advertising, Google has begun taking steps towards filtering what ads are being shown on their platform. 

Lexology states that Google will prohibit “ads that use tragedies, scandals and shame to pressure people to click immediately, when the claim is either false or lacks urgency”. This is textbook click-bait advertising and it is apparent that click-bait advertisers are going to be limited. Advertisers are going to be forced to produce ads that are reasonable. 

Google’s new policy explicitly disallows “ads that use click-bait tactics or sensationalist text or imagery to drive traffic” and “ads that use negative life events such as death, accidents, illness, arrests or bankruptcy to induce fear, guilt or other strong negative emotions to pressure the viewer to take immediate action”. Advertisers that violate these policies will receive a warning and potentially account suspensions for continued policy violations. 

So, what do these policy changes really mean? Click-bait ads are a thing of the past and honest advertising is the future. Google is taking the initiative to crack down on dishonest advertising practices to push for a better and more ethical advertising environment.  

Trust Issues

Click-bait ads, at their core, are a bad idea. Most of the time, they’re dishonest and lack substance that genuine advertising typically has. The main issue with click-bait advertising is trust. Sure, you can gain traffic to your website and get those clicks for impressive advertising results, but it won’t last long. There is no longevity if you’re trying to gain consistent, organic traffic while brand building. 

Consumers care more about brands now more than ever. Brand personality is a trend that is here to stay and consumers demand transparency. Stoicism within B2C companies tends to be a bad idea, depending on the industry. Customers seek personable brands with advertising campaigns that resonate with them. Click-bait advertisements embody the exact opposite traits of these concepts. They’re used for short-term gains, rather than long-term progress and durability.  

Why Click-Bait Ads (Don’t) Always Work

Gathering all that we learned from Google’s updated advertising policies to branding elements, click-bait ads don’t always work. It’s a risky game to play considering the various consequences. Jeopardizing your Google Ad account capabilities may not be worth the uncertain traffic amounts cultivated through click-bait ads. Not only that, click-bait advertising is not a satisfactory technique for consistent, organic traffic. Baiting consumers with unrealistic expectations and feeding them the underwhelming content on the other side isn’t a sustainable advertising process.

Digital advertising is no longer a recreational playground for click-bait advertisements that once flooded the internet. Intelligent consumers will avoid them voluntarily, while more malleable consumers won’t be long-term investments for these websites. Firefly Engagement supplies clients with the right tools and knowledge to maneuver through the fluctuating digital landscape that encompasses advertising. Every campaign we help produce is administered across the right channels and mediums that connect your goals to the right people. Firefly Engagement creates engaging, non-click-bait ads that produce great results. Our mission is to partner with publishers to be the premier source for their business needs. 

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