Mr. Kurnit talked with Advertising Age about why anyone would
bother saving online ads -- and why the industry shouldn't find
that so hard to believe.
Advertising Age: Why would anybody want to save
an online ad?
Scott Kurnit: I get asked this question in
every meeting I've been in: Scott, what are you thinking? You think
people are going to save ads? I've heard it many times, and from
big marketers like Kraft and Pepsi, and they all signed up for this
Ad Age: Isn't the skepticism
Mr. Kurnit: It's interesting: The closer
someone is to the advertising business, the more suspect they are
about people keeping the ads. Most people in the industry think ads
suck. I will agree there is a lot of crappy advertising on the
internet. But if they work in the business, why don't they make
Ad Age: It still remains to be seen if anyone
will keep ads. You recently did a survey with Nielsen that says 71%
of respondents will keep ads a few times a week. But it was based
on a question and not a view of the actual product.
Mr. Kurnit: I will make an offer of $100 to Ad
Age readers for the first person or the first 10 people who find me
an ad -- they'll have to capture that with a camera or something --
that wouldn't be more useful to a reasonable segment of the
audience if it was kept for later.
Ad Age: You're equivocating on that offer.
Define "reasonable segment."
Mr. Kurnit: Twitter reaches 8% of the audience,
so let's say 8%.
Ad Age: How does AdKeeper work?
Mr. Kurnit: There's a button that's placed in
the ad by the advertiser. Scott clicks the button, I know that
Scott kept that ad. I have no preexisting relationship with Scott.
We take the ad and put it into Scott's Keeper, I don't know who
Scott is. He looks at more ads, he keeps more ads. Keep, keep,
keep, keep, keep... Scott's now got 30 ads in his Keeper. He then
goes to his Keeper and there are his 30 ads. He can sort those ads
by category or advertiser. He gets a bunch of extra functions like
sorting and he can share through Twitter or Facebook, can take
notes on it.
Ad Age: How do you know which ads to keep if
Scott doesn't have to register?
Mr. Kurnit: We drop a cookie onto your
browsers. We now have a persistent relationship with you.
Eventually, we want you to register.
Ad Age: They would otherwise lose their
"Keeps," as you call them, if they switch computers, from work to
home, or if they clear their cookies. But won't that turn off
Mr. Kurnit: We're doing progressive
registration. Netflix is the best at progressive registration. Reed
Hastings is phenomenal at this. You don't have to ask for
everything up front. We'll ask for a little more at each visit.
That's how Netflix does it, and they do an amazing job. And this is
my conjecture, but there's an assumptive registration wall that has
to exist for 80% to 90% of people because they're humans that use
the internet -- everyone already expects it.
Ad Age: A bunch of big marketers have already
signed up for this service, including AT&T, Pepsi, CBS, Ford,
Gap, Kraft, McDonald's and Unilever. What are they paying to use
Mr. Kurnit: It's free for everybody for the
first six months. Rate structures will be determined. You don't
know what your rates are until you get there.
Ad Age: When you get there, what will you
Mr. Kurnit: It will be negotiated downstream. I
think that pricing on a radically new media business should start
Ad Age: Will you charge by impressions? Or will
there be a cost per click, or cost per acquisition?
Mr. Kurnit: Once we start charging we'll get in
a discussion -- cost per thousand, cost per click, cost per
acquisition or some combination. We'll have to see. The reason
we're staring without charging is we want to do what's right for
Ad Age: First six months free, whenever the
Mr. Kurnit: No, until July.
Ad Age: So marketers who come to you later than
January will lose out?
Mr. Kurnit: Advertisers who are dawdlers lose
Ad Age: Advertisers who do sign up will get
data on how many "Keeps" there were for a particular ad, but aren't
you just offering them data on which creative executions worked
Mr. Kurnit: Not just that. You get two
benefits. One is, "This unit worked creatively or didn't," and two
is, which websites worked better for getting ads kept. We'll tell
advertisers which publishers are going to have the best "Keep"
index. That's interesting to media buyers for shifting media
weight. In fact, we're going to work with publishers too. We'll
talk to whoever their audience acquisition person is, and they can
have free use of AdKeeper.
Ad Age: How?
Mr. Kurnit: A lot of sites have house ads that
say things like, "Sign up for our newsletter"; "Buy a copy of our
print edition"; "Special feature coming this Thursday." Granted,
there are a lot of publishers that don't do a good job of this. But
this way, readers can keep these house ads for later. Signing up
for a newsletter is a secondary activity. They may not have time to
do it during the work day. They may prefer to do it later at 7 p.m.
Publishers are interested in this. The New York Times is an
Ad Age: The New York Times is an investor? Who
Mr. Kurnit: The Times is the only direct
publishing investor. The chairman of Huffington Post is an
investor, Kenneth Lerer. John Battelle is on the advisory
Ad Age: Government officials have recently been
looking more aggressively at companies that track consumers for
behavioral advertising on the web. AdKeeper will be sitting on a
lot of cookie data. Will you be selling that to advertisers for the
purposes of targeting?
Mr. Kurnit: Not really. No question evervbody's
data-crazy right now. I have it in my long-term plan to represent
the consumer, and sell his data for him and cut him in. If you look
at our business, what we're about, these are consumers that have
self-selected. Our motto is, "Consumer first, advertiser second." I
think the reason the FTC is all over the industry right now is the
industry has gone way too far.
Ad Age: So you won't even give marketers cookie
data, such as how many women aged 18-34 kept a particular ad?
Mr. Kurnit: The marketer gets all that data on
an aggregated basis. We will tell XYZ marketers that they had so
many keeps from, say, the Huffington Post, and so many from Yahoo,
and so many from AOL, but not things like demographics. Not now.
And we'll let the publishers know how many ads were kept from their
Ad Age: People who save ads on AdKeeper can
also delete an ad. If I delete an ad, you still charge?
Mr. Kurnit: Yes. It's like driving past a
billboard. It still gives me value. We will be the most
consumer-friendly advertising company in the world. That means
transparency to the consumer. We will never put something in your
Keeper you didn't ask for.
Ad Age: You sold About.com to Primedia in 2001,
and left soon after. You haven't been in the industry till now.
What got you to start AdKeeper?
Mr. Kurnit: I've been thinking about this
company since I started About. So it was either do this back then
or do About.
We were discussing this back in the early days. We asked, 'When
somebody hits the back button, what do we do?' We made 100% the
wrong decision. When you hit the back button, we said, "Shit, let's
load a new impression -- we get paid on impressions." That ad is
Either we in the industry have so little respect for
advertising, which I think is true, or the industry just doesn't
respect itself, and we're trying to change that.
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