Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Distracted by Online Banner Ads? Here’s an Alternative By Andrew Adam Newman 27 June


 Many consumers bypass Madison Avenue with software that filters out online advertising. Adblock Plus, for example, averages about 13 million daily users on one browser, Firefox, alone.


 AdKeeper lets users click on a button to view ads at a later time.


 Now a tech start-up, AdKeeper, is charting a course directly against that ad-blocking current, arguing that consumers like to see ads and will want to save favorites in one central location.
 Participating advertisers place a small button on ads with the AdKeeper logo — a “K” formed by an exclamation point and less-than symbol — and when a consumer clicks the button, the ad is stored on a page on AdKeeper.com along with any others the consumer has saved.
 Scott P. Kurnit, who is the chief executive of AdKeeper and the founder of About.com (which is owned by The New York Times Company), acknowledged that many people are initially puzzled at the prospect of saving ads.
 “The question rational people have is, ‘Hey, don’t people dislike ads — why would people keep ads and why would they go back and look at what they’ve kept?’ ” Mr. Kurnit said.
 The answer, he said, is that consumers do like some ads, but dislike how distracting they can be on the Internet. With AdKeeper, online advertising becomes “truly invitational rather than interruptive,” said Mr. Kurnit, who as an example mentioned consumers encountering online movie-trailer ads at work, and saving them to view at home later.
 “It’s time-shifted advertising,” Mr. Kurnit said.
 A recent study by AdKeeper and 24/7 Real Media, a WPP company, found the main reason that people ignored banner ads was that they did not want to be pulled away from Web sites.
 According to Google, the average click-through rate — the portion of users who click on an ad — is 0.1 percent, or only 1 out of 1,000.
 Once ads are saved to AdKeeper, the click-through rate improves to 3.4 percent, meaning consumers are 34 times more likely to end up viewing the ad, according to the company.
 A new print and online ad campaign for AdKeeper, by Ignited in El Segundo, Calif., aims to educate consumers about the significance of the button starting to appear on ads.
 “Making your Internet better (one button at a time)” declares one ad, while another says, “Behold, a better Internet.”
 While it will ultimately be advertisers who pay to participate, Troy Scarlott, a group creative director at Ignited, said the initial campaign promoted AdKeeper as an advocate for consumers, for whom online ads could be less intrusive.
 “If you click on the AdKeeper button on an ad it’s going to take you a half a second and you can continue reading,” Mr. Scarlott said. “This really gives you true control of your online experience because you control when you want to engage with ads.”
 AdKeeper, which was formed in 2010 and began running in a test version in February, already has secured more than $40 million in financing. (The New York Times Company is an investor in AdKeeper; Janet Robinson, chief executive of the Times Company, serves on its advisory board.)
 Many of the country’s largest advertisers, including AT&T, Kraft Foods, Ford and General Mills, are already putting the AdKeeper button on some ads, which is free until AdKeeper begins charging advertisers later this year. These advertisers helping to establish the program will be rewarded with discounted rates when AdKeeper begins charging, said Mr. Kurnit.
 “I expect our button to be on literally every ad on the Internet a year from now,” Mr. Kurnit said. “And you can kick my butt a year from now if it isn’t.”
 Some are kicking already.
 After AdKeeper was announced last fall, Thad McIlroy declared it “the dumbest publishing startup of 2010” on his blog, The Future of Publishing.
 In a phone interview, Mr. McIlroy said online advertising had failed to engage users not because it demanded too much attention, but precisely the opposite.
 “You don’t have to be an aesthete to be offended by the caliber of online advertising,” said Mr. McIlroy, adding that effective advertising is arresting. “The point of advertising is to engender an immediate response, not to make people want to horde it away for some future moment.”
 Brian Morrissey, editor in chief of Digiday, an online publication that covers digital marketing and media, predicted that AdKeeper might be effective for brands promoting coupons or deals, but not for more conceptual ads.
 “Women rip ads out of women’s magazines all the time, but those ads are attractive and truly like content, and Internet ads are kind of ugly and disposable,” Mr. Morrissey said. “You can add all of these tools, but maybe you should improve the quality of the advertising and make it memorable in the first place.”
 Jason Lowe, who as precision marketing manager for Wendy’s oversees its digital marketing efforts, said consumer obliviousness was daunting.
 “We’re all battling this banner blindness,” Mr. Lowe said.
 When Wendy’s was approached by AdKeeper, “We all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Are consumers really going to save these ads?’ Maybe, maybe not.”
 Because Wendy’s initially will incur only small production costs to attach the button to ads, it decided to give AdKeeper a try.
 “If it does take off and consumers show this is something they want, then we’re here on the ground floor,” Mr. Lowe said. “And if it doesn’t take off, it’s a relatively low risk opportunity for us, so we thought why not give it a shot?”
 In March, About.com, the company Mr. Kurnit founded, announced the winners of its 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards, and in the category of Best Overall (Non-Security) Add-On, the winner for the second consecutive year: Adblock Plus.
 “Adblock Plus has won this coveted category by a wide margin, proving once again that Web surfers love to have control over advertising content,” the About.com contributor Scott Orgera wrote.

© 2011nytimes.com




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