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Pay-Per-View Ads Pick Up Steam

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Consumer ad avoidance is leading to a mini-boom in new services offering to pay people to watch ads.

A new entrant to the market, BrightSpot Media, has created a video portal for consumers to watch and respond to ads on their own time, using the lure of free services, like subscriptions to online audio broadcasts of NBA matchups and video game service GameFly.

After filling out a survey of their likes, dislikes and demographic data, users can earn credits by watching video ads matched to their psychographic profile, then answering up to five market research questions from each brand. They can choose which ads they want to see from advertisers like McDonald's, AIG and Miller, who only pay BrightSpot when their ads are watched. They get 50 cents of credit for each ad watched, up to $5.

"The experiences of viewing advertising and viewing content need to be separate," said Scott Brubaker, CMO of BrightSpot, which is joining an increasingly crowded field: Virgin Mobile gives away cell minutes for ad viewing; E-Miles offers airline frequent flier credits; and Brandport hands out cash.

But will consumers really want to seek out ads to save $5? There are some signs they will. Over 100,000 Virgin Mobile subscribers, for instance, signed up for its minutes-for-ad-viewing service in its first 10 weeks. And BrightSpot CEO Aaron Martens notes 50 percent of GameFly users who visited BrightSpot.TV signed up. After its launch next month, it plans to let users entirely eliminate subscription fees for GameFly through ad viewing. "We're enabling them to consume more," he said.

Former McDonald's CMO Paul Schrage thinks the time is right for pay-per-view advertising. He's invested in the Scottsdale, Ariz., startup and is advising the company. The 30-year-plus marketing vet said BrightSpot could solve an age-old problem for advertisers: the nagging feeling that many of their ads are not registering.

"That's where things have to go," he said. "There has to be more accountability. The goal of advertising is knowing you're getting the most effectiveness out of the advertising."