Would consumers be more likely to interact with display ads if they could put them aside for later? Scott Kurnit, founder and former CEO of About.com, is betting his new company on it.
The company, called AdKeeper, places a "K" button on its clients' display ads that consumers can click to "keep" the ad for later. Once the button is pushed, AdKeeper places the ad on a personalized Web page that users can access at their convenience - all without redirecting them away from their current Web page. AdKeeper also places a cookie on users' computers so they don't have to sign in to access their ads.
AdKeeper launches with an impressive list of clients, McDonald's, Pepsi, Warner Bros and JetBlue among them. John Battelle, CEO of Federated Media; David Rosenblatt, former CEO of DoubleClick; and Janet Robinson, president of the New York Times Company, are among the members of AdKeeper's advisory board.
"Ninety five percent of people tear ads out of magazines," Kurnit said, citing a 1,600-person study that AdKeeper commissioned from the Nielsen Company. "And I knew that if you could find something that people do offline and migrate it online, you had an idea. This is one of the few things that hasn't migrated yet."
Considering the dismal click-through rate for display ads - an average 0.1 percent for 2009, according to DoubleClick - some people may be skeptical that consumers are eager for more ways to interact with Web ads.
But Kurnit said the problem with Web advertising "isn't that people don’t want ads," he said. "They just don't like the way we do it on the Web. We screwed up the medium" by making ads too invasive and too unpredictable.
AdKeeper launched on Monday with a closed beta test that will continue till the end of the year. Kurnit plans to launch the company across the entire Web in January.
Consumers will be able to keep up to 30 ads on AdKeeper, but they will eventually have to register with the site, if only to avoid losing their ads when they clean their cookies or if they want to access their ads from another computer.
Kurnit claimed that Adkeeper ads would be "friction-free" and work on any ad network across the Web, because the "K" button goes directly to Adkeeper. He also said that any display ad could be stored on Adkeeper's site, including those with video overlays and rich media.
"We put the button in the ad and the button travels with the creative," Kurnit said. "If we can do that, then the ad will move seamlessly through everything."
The company is backed by private investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners and Esther Dyson, former host of PC Forum.
Follow Douglas Quenqua on Twitter at @DQuenqua.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014