The webcomics blog about webcomics

This Must Be The Week For New Ad Models

The redoubtable T Campbell (so don’t doubt him unless you’re willing to redoubt as well, Slappy!) dropped some email on me earlier today; let’s share, shall we?

Today sees the launch of One Simple Ad, a simple and original idea, an unprecedented value for advertisers, a unique and intriguing idea for a site, and an unapologetic attempt to keep myself out of the poorhouse.

I would appreciate it if you gave the site a moment of your time and attention, and asked others to do the same.

Done, and done (and, my I say, noble goals on Campbell’s part). My time and attention having been spent, here’s my thoughts:

Interesting idea on an intellectual level: one ad plays on an otherwise empty page, nothing to distract, pure laser-like attention from the viewer on the ad and nothing else, all good things from the perspective of an advertiser. But I don’t get it viscerally; I don’t see the benefit to the person with the eyeballs that are intended to be captured. Campbell’s got an interesting take on the FAQ page:

Who will visit?
People who believe that advertising is an art form in its own right. Andy Warhol showed us that neat things happen when you combine art and commerce in new ways, and Super Bowl commercials have shown us that advertisers respond well when you give them one big chance to make their pitch. I grew up the proud son of an advertising executive, so I appreciate ads at their best, and this site should give people an incentive to create some!

Which, um, yeah. I might be speaking purely for myself, but advertising is what I put up with to get free media, not something I seek out … and I think most people are of like mind. The fact that, in a world of near infinite space on the digital cable converter, there’s no Ads Channel is clue #1. The fact that if you ask 100 people what one gadget in their house, if it broke today, they’d have a new one by tonight, will cause most of them to answer “My TiVo” is clue #2. And I can see the Super Bowl argument kinda, but then Campbell adds in this bit from the T & C:

  • Ads should be non-animated image files (GIF, JPG or PNG). [my emphasis]

That’s not a Super Bowl ad, that’s going outside the house at intervals during the Super Bowl and staring at a billboard for 30 — 60 seconds. And nobody’s gonna stare at a billboard that long, even if it’s as brilliantly wrong as the [in]famous Pork the one you love. That’s clue #3.

Anyway, there’s about five ads in the rotation now (four if you discount the fact that one is for Campbell’s own webcomic); they’re … ads. Campbell’s is pretty to look at and all, but nothing that’s going to make me want to come back and hit the refresh button on a daily basis. Unless you’re already reading James Lileks tributes to old ads, I’m afraid that this one’s not likely to capture your imagination.

I can’t remember if David Foster Wallace was quoting someone or if it’s original to him, but his description of advertising as “sincerity with a motive” pretty much sums up why I can’t get behind advertising as art. (And, hence, why I can’t muster much interest in a destination site to view advertising.)

The site would be a lot better with some Google Ads plastered all over it. Then we could complain about how T has “sold out.”

Ah, ONE fine day I will come up with an idea which Fleen will recommend without reservation!

I’m not sure anyone expects you to stare at an ad for 30 or 60 seconds, unless it’s one of those Magic Eye things. Regardless, the “non-animated” rule is under review right now, and may change. I am trying to socially engineer an interesting site here, perhaps a bit like the designers of the Something Awful forums, interfering as little as possible, but doing so strategically. At this point, I think that keeping the images still will inspire greater creativity and lesser annoyingness than permitting animation. I may be persuaded otherwise. We’ll see. BETA!

It’s true that this idea will never be for everyone. I know some people simply hate ads and swat them like mosquitos wherever they find them. I eagerly await the first person who views One Simple Ad with ad-blocking software. But websites don’t have to be for everyone; they just have to be for a devoted group of people… and Lileks has an audience, too. If 6.5998 billion people ignore or actively avoid the site’s ads but 20,000 a day check them out, that is all the win the site needs!

(And from the advertisers’ viewpoint– they don’t WANT to pay for impressions where ad-haters view their ads– in fact, if the site weeds ad-haters out of the audience, that’s kind of a BONUS.)

I love it! It’s advertising, but aimed only at those with an interest in advertising, rather than the product. Taking ‘it’s not for you’ to the meta-level. Warhol indeed.

I have to completely disagree with Clue #1 — I can think of at TWO ads channells: QVC and The Home Shopping Network. They’re not “ads as art,” but they’re definitely targetted exclusively at people who enjoy being advertised at, and they make real money in the process.

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but while I have no love for QVC, I actually do like advertising when it’s cleverly done. When I’m watching a show I’ve taped, and my wife picks up the remote to fast forward through the commercials, I honestly feel like I’m missing something. So I’m intrigued by T’s site.

Of course, two of the five ads currently running on T’s site are mine. They’re not very good, and really don’t take advantage of the what the site is. But I didn’t know the concept for the site when T asked me to send him some ads. Now that I get it, I intend to put together something a bit more compelling as soon as I have a little free time.

I think the concept has a huge amount of creative merit. Whether it makes business sense we’ll see. I think the non-animated rule should go, just jury animated pieces to weed out annoying ones.

The problem is, there isn’t yet an example there of an ad cool enough for me to be glad I went there for it.

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