Ad Auction Platform Germinates in World of Online Comics

  |  December 13, 2006   |  Comments

A start-up called Project Wonderful stresses transparency in pricing, targets smaller businesses.

Less than two months ago, a small two-man operation opened its virtual doors to host auctions selling Web site advertising on online comics sites. Their platform, called Project Wonderful, eschews impressions and clicks in favor of a cost-per-day model.

Ryan North, CEO and co-founder of Project Wonderful, launched the system to serve the niche comics area since several online comics sites are run by his friends and contacts. It's seen considerable growth, bringing in just over a thousand advertising clients in the two months since its launch.

The Project Wonderful auction system allows advertisers to bid for ad placements on sites including Comicspace.com, Graphicsmash.com, and the Web destination for Jessica McLeod's comic art. The placements range from small buttons to large banners, and advertisers' placements stay in rotation for as long as their bid remains highest. If they are outbid, they are only charged for the amount of time their ad is up on a site. Pricing fluctuates dynamically as interest grows around a Web site and more advertisers seek to buy there.

The system was designed with transparency in mind, said North. Prospective advertisers can view current ads on a site, the number of ad impressions delivered, and the current cost-per-day a given site commands.

"You look at all that and decide where to place the bid," North said. "A lot of advertising networks will keep their information to themselves. Google won't tell you what is being paid, but Project Wonderful has this transparency. So when you do bid, you can make an informed decision, based on what you see right now and what's going on in the past."

He added, ''We launched in the comics arena, but there's nothing to keep us from going elsewhere."

Comicspace.com, a new online social networking site for comics creators and readers which launched last week with the help of Project Wonderful, has seen auctions for each of the 16 small ads at the top of its page vary from .70 cents to $3.20 a day.

"I'm looking at $1000 a month after Project Wonderful takes its cut, if current levels hold," said Josh Roberts, creator of Comicspace.com. "I expect to make a lot more money than with the standard ad network like ValueClick or Tribal Fusion. I'll make easily three times as much money with Project Wonderful."

Project Wonderful is ramping up to support increasing demand, but North acknowledges that his system is more targeted towards small businesses and individuals, and so isn't a threat to large advertising networks yet.

"If you’re a company, you're more likely going to go to AdSense and say here's $10,000, make it happen," North said. "We're not set up for that yet, but we're moving in that direction. Right now it's more focused on the people who are going to do their advertising themselves."

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Matthew G. Nelson

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