e-Bay says that its ads on Google generate 25 cents for every dollar spent so it is cutting back to selected markets. The same Register article quotes Google as saying that its data shows that, even for market leaders, 50% of sales resulting from pay per click contacts are incremental. What is certain is that large on-line retailers are starting to take a cool look at the returns on their advertising spend. So what about the actual return to small firms from paying per click? My views on the the value of unqualified leads from adverts (let alone the click you pay for on-line) are scarred by a DTI (now the Department for Business Innovation and Skills) campaign in the early 1980s encouraging small businesses to contact their local Microsystems Centre. DTI was proud that the campaign generated 16,000 enquiries. My staff at the NCC Microsystems Centre received 4,000 of these. We would have been paralysed save that we had just taken on a fresh batch of work experience trainees from the Threshold Programme (a very successful BTEC double sandwich). We used the task as a supervised sales training exercise, every enquiry was responded to and "qualified" as a potential paying customer. Over 90% were only interested in whatever was free. They had assumed, mistakenly, that a DTI paid advert mean a freebie. Since DTI was paying for nothing other than advertising and we were running at break-even with no outside funding, that left 400, most of whom ended paying £5 or less a set of guidelines. Barely 20 paid £25 for our "flagship" half day workshop on how to budget, choose and use a microcomputer. None paid for professional advice. By contrast an article in Daily Telegraph, shortly before, had produced over 200 leads, almost all of whom expected to pay for advice. When the Telegraph article was, however, repeated, (with our permission), in the middle of a full page advert (mainly white space) by a commercial computer retailer, it lead to under 20 enquiries.