Advertising: To gate or Not to gate


Just the other day, we had our regular review meeting with our advertising account team, where we look at our inventory of ads, check their performance and discuss any needed refinements and next steps. During that review, we considered our plans to promote our new Social Media Analytics solution, which got me thinking about one of the mantras of Dave Thomas, our Social Media Manager: a key ingredient to building a community and establishing relationships is to share good content. Hmmm…

That concept once again opened a thought process we’ve had for some time regarding the question of our content and its value. Up until that meeting, I was of the mind that our assets are valuable and it was right and good to expect something in exchange for getting the asset. After all, these whitepapers, Webcasts and research reports are the result of some work we’ve done with a domain expert (either in-house or outside of SAS), and that expert says smart things and we all listen. So these assets have value.

In order to “protect” the perceived value of the ad, we’ve always required registration, or in the world of advertising, we “gate” the asset. We all know the drill with registrations. And we all know exactly what happens to that registration data and why it’s required.

And while my account team assures us that getting 0.93% of the audience clicking on the ad is “very good” and then 4.95% of those people converting are “phenomenal” results, it still makes me wonder about the much larger percentages of people that do NOT click on the ad, and do NOT convert by registering. I know I am not the first one to think these thoughts, and ultimately it comes down to a simple question: To gate or not to gate - that is the question. (Okay – you’re allowed one mental eyeroll for that. Sorry, Shakespeare.)

So of the people we managed to get to click on the ad, there are 95.05% of them that do NOT convert. Since our goal with advertising is to build awareness, and it turns out we do have the means to measure conversions without requiring the target to register for the asset, and we’re not really getting a lot of strong leads out of the process, I am left wondering: why do we gate?

Justin and I decided to see what would happen if we ungated one of the assets we’re promoting, so we chose a summary paper from a Webcast called, “Tips from the Trade – Competing on Web Analytics” that featured author Eric Peterson from Web Analytics Demystified and SAS Customer Office Depot. It’s a great document that includes 9 tips to reaping the full potential of your Web channels, and since that link does not go to our campaign landing page, go ahead and click on it and it won’t mess up our little experiment.

I’ll report back on what happens. In the meantime, what do you think about registering for an asset? Good, bad or indifferent? Share your thoughts.


About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids, volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


  1. There is no question that the consideration of a value exchange...content for name has been important. Oh how times are changing though.
    Marketers need to determine whether the NAME (whether accurate or not) is more important than the information in a prospective customers' hands.
    Good conversation, and one that will continue to evolve

  2. Jane Ellery on

    That was a great reading! I believe that content is king, and customers appreciate it more than the name.

  3. girl games on

    Well, getting users to register is a very hard task to do, the numbers you mentioned (clicking on an ad) are the number I also familier with.
    I wonder what would you registration conversion be.
    Thank you.

  4. intention for advertising is --exposure , not conversions. the more the exposure -- the more the faith ur site get and more chances of conversions,

  5. Pingback: Advertising — To Gate or Not to Gate (Part II) - Customer Analytics

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