ClicVU's technology lets users bookmark banner ads for later consumption. By Karl Greenberg
Clickthrough rates, as low as half a percent these days, may be entering a period of global cooling, but ClicVU--a provider of delivery, viewing, and management technologies for banner advertising--hopes to warm things up a bit. To achieve that, company founders Michael Cassara and Justin Greene are counting on ClicVU's "time-shifted advertising" model, which allows users to essentially bookmark banner ads for later viewing.
Cassara, ClicVU's chief executive officer, says the company's eponymously named server-based app--launched last week--will be a product everyone wants. Site publishers will want it because it will enhance site stickiness while increasing advertising value, and advertisers will see it as a way to get customers to their sites without having to pry them away from the content they came online to find.
Cassara explains that ClicVU is a link in the chain of content site, ad server and advertising page--a virtual bridge, or waiting room--that gives a user the options of staying at the current site and saving the banner, going directly to the advertiser's site, or just staying put and saving nothing.
Is there a conflict inherent in placing one's product in the stream between advertiser, ad server and back end? "No," says Cassara. "First of all, ClicVU doesn't just grab banners and ClicVU-enable them. We have the advertiser's permission. We fit seamlessly between starting site, ad server, and the advertiser's site," he said. "And it's easy as pie to use. There's no plug-in involved, no downloads."
When a user clicks on a ClicVU-enabled banner, he or she gets a small pop-up window displaying options: save the banner, go directly to the advertiser's page, or just stay put. When a user saves the banner, it is added to his or her personal page housed on ClicVU's servers. To view later, a user must visit www.clicVU.com and enter the ID number assigned when the save option is chosen. A user can then visit any saved ad site by clicking on any of the banners arranged on his personal page.
"Banners are now and may always be marginally effective," said Dana Serman, vice president of equity research at investment firm Lazard Frres. "But the issue is that there are people who would click an ad if they weren't taken away from the content they were focused on. ClicVU allows you to do that."
But who would want to save ads in the first place, especially when visiting the bookmarked advertiser's site means having to go the extra mile of visiting ClicVU.com, retrieving a personal page and then clicking-through from there?
The problem, argues Cassara, is not that people don't like ads or aren't clicking on them because they aren't interested in them. "Realize that when someone sees an ad, they have to be more interested in the ad than the content to leave the site they're on. So you can be 90-percent interested in the ad but 92-percent interested in the content at hand." The temporal separation allowed by ClicVU, he says, eliminates the conflict.
Cassara cited recent studies by Jupiter, IAB and Georgia Tech demonstrating that just one out of ten people who are genuinely interested in an ad while at a site actually click on it. "Of those who click," said Cassara, "85 percent leave after they get to the home page of the advertiser's site--clicker's remorse, we call it."
ClicVU, he contends, has gotten a good chunk of those 85 percent who turn away to come back. "They've said, in effect, 'I'm so interested that I want to see the ad again just so I can go to the advertiser's site.' Once there, their disposition toward the ad is different, because this is now their focus. You might say that ad has become the content they're looking for."
Justin Greene, executive vice president and technology guru at ClicVU, says that since the company developed its technology in-house, it has managed to avoid fishing for an infusion of venture capital orchestrated by an outside firm. "We sponsored a first-round funding of $3.5 million, a combination of institutional and individual investors."