Scott Kurnit, a veteran of Internet 1.0, believes the first iteration of the Web got some things wrong.
"The tech guys who came up with the Web frankly never thought about ads," said Kurnit, founder of About.com, which is now part of The New York Times Company. "Marketers and regular people like ads."
Kurnit hopes to undo some of that with his new effort, AdKeeper, an ad-technology company that looks to make Internet advertising as easy to "clip" as magazine ads. AdKeeper has signed over 20 marketers, including Best Buy, Gap and McDonald's, to affix a tiny "keep" logo to their banners. Clicking on these allows users to return to the ads later on the AdKeeper Web site.
The simple idea begs an obvious question: Is there any way regular Internet users -- who on average click banners one time out 1,000 -- have any interest in saving banner ads to check out later?
"The keep rates are going to be off the chart compared to click rates," predicted Kurnit (pictured left).
The AdKeeper effort is one of several attempts to jump-start brand advertising in the online space, which is currently dominated by direct-response efforts. AOL is in the midst of a wholesale revamp of its Web pages to include far larger, more interactive ad space. Another startup, Solve Media, aims to further "cognitive advertising" by having people retype brand taglines in order to access content.
"[Marketers] thought the Internet was supposed to give them great ROI," said MaryAnn Bekkadahl, chief revenue officer of AdKeeper. "They realized click-through rates are so terrible that before they get value they had to shift to take away the need for the click-through rate."
AdKeeper plans to deploy its technology on ads at the start of 2011. In its current format, users click on a small "k" logo in the lower right corner of a banner ad. They can view their "keeper" then or later, as well as rank, sort and share the banners.
The company's research found users have a need for such a service. For example, an office worker viewing a Monster banner during the day can't visit the offer immediately but might wish to do so later. Movie trailers are another obvious fit, Kurnit said. The hope is that this initiative will help raise the bar on creative from being dancing monkeys that distract people to actual information folks will want to keep for later.
"We as an industry have messed this up," said Kurnit, who recalls garish ads dotting About. "We've got some undoing to do as an industry."