Ads Spotted in Celebrity Gossip Site Photos

  |  June 8, 2009   |  Comments

Online publishers deploy ads that connect consumers to commerce sites selling items seen on Angelina Jolie, Halle Barry, and other beautiful people.

Online commerce sites now have a new way to peddle tank tops similar to one seen on Angelina Jolie or gladiator sandals like Halle Berry's. For its Web merchant advertisers, startup Pixazza is currently enabling advertising embedded in celebrity photos and other images on gossip sites.

A startup, Pixazza, is creating ad units from celebrity photos and other images found on gossip and other publisher sites. Some items in the photos, such as clothes and accessories, are matched up with similar items offered by merchants affiliated with Pixazza. For instance, a photo of cyclist Lance Armstrong in a suit brings up matches for the suit and a shirt, available at Bloomingdale's, along with a tie from BlueFly.

When a Web site visitor mouses over a photo containing such an ad, the consumer will see a price tag icon typically marked with a "P," an image of the product similar to what the celebrity is wearing. The ad includes a call to action to "Get Details" on an item available at a particular online store. After clicking the icon, the consumer is directed to the merchant's site.

Buzz Media enabled Pixazza ad units within the past few weeks on three of its 30-plus sites. The ads run on CeleBuzz.com, JustJared.com, and SocialliteLife.com. "I don't really feel like it's an ad. I feel like it's contextual, non-invasive editorial content," Karina Kogan, EVP of marketing told ClickZ. She classifies the unit as contextual commerce.

The network of celebrity-focused and pop culture sites was looking for a technology to add to the site when it found Pixazza had implemented the application on the blog I'm Not Obsessed! Kogan said other commerce applications she had encountered up until that point were clunky because graphics took over the experience. "You want the experience to make the user want to learn about the picture, I thought the Pixazza execution was really elegant," she said.

It is early for feedback for Buzz Media, but Pixazza's James Everingham, co-founder and chief technology officer, told ClickZ that other publishers have forwarded fan mail from their readers. "I doubt they get fan mail from other types of advertising from the site."

Response rates to ads approach double digits for consumers who click through ads to merchant sites. About 10 percent of people roll over the images to see the products, and a lower percentage click through to the merchants. "It's higher than banner ads," said Everingham. "Part of the appeal to it is you are getting undivided attention, not something that's divided. They also view something that's entertainment as well."

Everingham came up with the idea for the company while watching his wife shop for a pair of shoes based on a picture she had seen. He realized it would be easier if she could mouse over the image and learn where to purchase the same or a similar pair. He then co-founded Pixazza based on a crowd sourcing concept. The company hires Internet users to match the items in photos to merchandise from advertisers. Pixazza shares a portion of its revenue with the publisher and the users who work with them. That's one of the qualities that attracted Buzz Media to the service.

Celebuzz.com, one of the Buzz Media sites that displays the Pixazza ads, got a customized application. The standard ad has a price tag indicator that is yellow with a blue "P"; the customized unit is pink with a white lightening bolt. The card that comes up when moused-over instead says "powered by Pixazza." "We customized the branding a little bit so the product looks a bit more seamlessly integrated with our style," Kogan said.

Buzz Media will decide whether to roll out Pixazza to more sites after it gets more information on how the application is working on the initial three properties.

Pixazza has signed over 350 merchants since beginning its operations in March. Sellers include Zappos.com, BlueFly, Overstock.com, Amazon.com, Shopbop.com, eLuxury.com, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, REI, and Target. The company has signed close to 50 publishers. In addition to Buzz Media sites include I'm Not Obsessed!, Lainey Gossip, and The Hollywood Gossip

Celebrity and shopping is the first category for Pixazza, which received a round of financing in March from investors including Google. Everingham said the next likely category will be house wares and interior design with consumer electronics, sports, and more to follow. "We have to build something that people like, and something that people want, we're not just trying to build and an network," he said.

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