The problem with most ads is that they suck. Publishers sign up for ad networks and they have to take what they are given, which is usually some weight-loss ad showing way too much belly flab. But what if Website publishers could create their own ads? They know their audience best, right?
That’s the idea behind Bedrock, an ad network created by the founders of GumGum, which is itself an unconventional way to display shopping ads on celebrity photos. The way Bedrock works is that publishers create ads on their site, which could be as simple as a text ad, an image, or a Flash animation. Then they pass a set of keywords associated with that ad to Bedrock through APIs and Bedrock has advertisers bid on those keywords just like they do with search ads. Every time somebody clicks on the publisher-created ad, it goes to a different advertisers based on who is bidding the most for the underlying keywords in a realtime auction.
Let me illustrate this through an example. If you run a gadget site and you have a bunch of forums where people like to talk about Plasma TVs, you could create a generic ad with a graphic that says “Buy a Plasma TV.” You pass Bedrock the keyword “plasma TV” and advertisers who want to buy that keyword bid for your clicks. In particular, though, Bedrock is aimed at non-standard real estate for ads, such as widgets, feeds, chat rooms, desktop clients and so on where standard online ads don’t work so well. For instance, DocStoc has been trying out the ads with its embeddable documents.
Sounds simple. Except I could easily see publishers try to abuse the system by not clearly indicating what is an ad and what is content, or hiding the ad directly in the content. So Bedrock won’t necessarily result in better, more relevant ads. For instance, a publisher could simply hyperlink valuable keywords in an article and make that an ad, or place a line of text under real headlines as an ad, which borders on being an advertorial. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, except that advertorials also suck.
The founders Ophir Tanz and Ari Mir suggest you don’t do that, but rather label the ads clearly as such. They created Bedrock for themselves because they needed to generate ad inventory for GumGum images. They already produce hundreds of millions of impressions a month through GumGum which they monetize in this fashion for themselves, and so Bedrock is a generalized service that came out of that. Investors in GumGum include MySpace COO and Userplane founder Michael Jones, First Round Capital, GRP Ventures, and CrossCut Ventures.
What do you think, can publishers create better, higher-performing ads than advertisers?
Here’s a video explaining what Bedrock does: