Google-Funded Pixazza Courts Advertisers With New Platform

Pixazza, a Google-backed service that displays product descriptions and purchase options for items seen in Web images, is now serving display and other forms of advertising activated by clicks and mouse-overs of image items.

In announcing the service, named AdPix, Mountain View, CA-based Pixazza asserted its new platform “pioneers the use of images as real estate for display advertising on the Web.”

Up to now, the main way for advertisers to participate with Pixazza was through a commission-based affiliate program, said Pixazza CEO Bob Lisbonne. Sites using the service would deliver Pixazza-tweaked images containing tags that pointed to objects in the image. Users could learn more about the items by clicking the tags.

For example, if an image of Brad Pitt showed him wearing a coat that was tagged, the Pixazza service would display for users who clicked on the tag a description of the coat and a list of merchants, such as, that sold the coat or something similar. Now, when a user places a cursor over the image or clicks on a tag, the Pixazza system might display next to the photo an advertiser-sponsored “card” relating to products in the picture.

“This is the first time we’ve announced the whole advertising side of Pixazza,” he said. “When we launched the company we announced the consumer service and that it was available to publishers. This is a whole set of innovative advertising programs designed to convert images into advertising opportunities on popular Web sites.”

Lisbonne said AdPix will appeal to both brand advertisers and to direct-response advertisers. “As you may know, brand advertising is enjoying something of resurgence on the Internet today,” he said.

“But advertisers are interested in more innovative and differentiated properties. I think, with good reason, they’ve grown tired of the traditional banner ads and simple display ads.”

As for direct-response, the CEO said advertisers can upload their product inventories into Pixazza’s catalog. “On a simple, cost-per-click basis, we will place those products into our cards and direct incremental customers and orders to them,” Lisbonne said. He said the opportunity will be popular with companies that have “already exhausted search keywords and other forms of direct-response advertising.”

Currently, Pixazza is focused solely on fashion-related publishers and advertisers. Its platform is popular with those who want to wear the same clothes as movie stars (or, at least, wear cheaper look-alike styles). Jon Singer, CEO of fashion retailer Singer 22, has been testing the new Pixazza ad platform for several months and is happy with the results.

“I doubled my ad budget with them this month,” Singer said. “A lot of blogs are using their service and they get high readership. They’re directing traffic to my site… Their cost-per-click prices are competitive and for me it’s a no-brainer.”

Lisbonne said the company plans to branch out to other industries, such as home improvement.

The company uses teams of people who, in crowd-sourcing fashion, try to identify items in photos and link them to the inventories of Pixazza sponsors. “Our crowd-sourcing has evolved quite a bit,” Lisbonne said. “We still depend on crowd-sourced product experts to identify what’s interesting in a image…but we’ve augmented them with whole set of new technologies.”

The CEO said Pixazza is now serving 4 billion image views per year, 3 billion more than it served last summer. “So, we’re serving a lot of traffic,” he said. “Our growth rates have been very high, despite the recession, because we were very small when we started. In some sense, the more difficult the environment for publishers the more receptive they are to new ideas. Likewise, the tougher the economy the more advertisers need to be sure their ad dollars are being spent wisely.”

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