If Scott Kurnit has his way, soon you will go from ignoring online ads to saving them.
Kurnit, the founder of About.com, plans to roll out web ads from McDonald’s, Best Buy, Sears, Showtime and others on February 14. Each will contain an AdKeeper button that lets users store them for future viewing (see image). The launch is more than a month later than Kurnit originally planned, but he says the initial date was never set in stone. “I thought about 1/11 back in March ” says Kurnit. “As we started to realize CES was in the way, we changed our minds.”
An infusion of $35 million in Series B funding on January 3 also influenced the decision, Kurnit says, since it allowed the company greater scale. It will also help the sustain the company for the first six months of the launch when all the ads will be free to partners. “It’s free to everyone in the industry,” says Kurnit. “We’re taking a page from Google and Twitter.”
Although many people — particularly those in the advertising industry — are skeptical that consumers will want to save any ad, Kurnit says that his own research with Nielsen shows that 56% of consumers would save an ad for later viewing if given the option. Why? Kurnit rattles off a number of reasons ranging from coupons and offers, entertainment value and product research (meaning consumers are getting data about a product they’re planning to buy). Kurnit says that if the research is correct, AdKeeper will be “twice as big as Twitter,” meaning at least 16% of people on the web will engage with it, vs. 8% for Twitter.
Not everyone is convinced. ”Saving advertising may be a rare activity people do offline by ripping an ad out of a magazine, but it isn’t something consumers are used to doing online,” says Augie Ray, an analyst with Forrester Research. “I question if [a] sufficient number of consumers will learn about AdKeeper, trust them, sign up, save ads and — most importantly — return to view, engage and click their saved ads. There are quite a few steps required for AdKeeper to succeed.”
Kurnit claims that such doubts come about because of the way advertising has been traditionally viewed on the Internet. Consumers generally don’t like ads because they get in the way of web browsing. But if ads are seen as more along the lines of content, then they will be perceived more favorably. “Our simple contention is that people like ads,” says Kurnit. “They just hate the way we do it on the Internet.”