You all undoubtedly remember the "Natural Born Clickers" study that was released by comScore in conjunction with Starcom USA and Tacoda back in 2007. Findings showed that only 32% of online users clicked on at least one display ad during one month. Surely, driving sales isn't the only goal of a campaign but it's supposed to account for something, right?

Fast forward to late 2009 when the three got back together to revisit the results. New research showed that 32% was cut by half; only 16% of all internet users were clicking on at least one display ad in a month. An even deeper dive showed that 8% of internet users accounted for 85% of all clicks.

8%? No marketer would ever produce a campaign that targeted just 8% of the population. Yet, that's what they were doing by building campaigns around the click. We at AOL – and a lot of the digital advertising industry – believe there is a better metric: engagement. Which is why in June 2011, AOL commissioned Nielsen to conduct a research study to find out who is naturally prone to engaging with online advertising.

The study, which came to be known as "Consumers First: Best Practices For Creating Engaging Ad Experiences", took a look at the intersection of the population exposed to Premium Formats with Nielsen's robust online panel to garner insights about consumers' online advertising behavior. We wanted to develop a profile of who is engaging with online ads, what they think about display and how to create a robust experience for them online.

One of our first findings was that 59% of users say they dislike online display ads. However, with internal data showing that AOL Premium Formats saw 15M interactions over the course of three months, we knew someone was engaging – a group that we dubbed "Engagers". Engagers are users who actively, intentionally interact with an ad unit, and these people will interact with online advertising, if you give them a reason to.

To find out what makes up an Engager and how to get them interacting with online ads, click here to download the full study.

Source: comScore, Inc. custom analysis, Total US Online Population, XPC Persons Panel, July 2007 data period
Source: Nielsen Custom Study, August 2011