This week, at the AlwaysOn OnMedia conference in New York, I couldn't help but bump into some entrepreneur attempting to make today's banner ads more dynamic and interactive. It was a conference on game-changers in online marketing, after all. So, it's not a surprise that it attracted startups trying to improve upon today's current advertising options.
One company trying to disrupt, or be an alternative to, today's banner ads or the ubiquitious Google's AdSense is WidgetBucks, which was named OnMedia newcomer of the year.
At the event, I caught up with Matt Hulett, CEO of WidgetBucks. Seattle-based WidgetBucks is a vertical advertising network around shopping. It works with shopping sites, such as Shopping.com, Shopzilla, and eBay, to display their products across thousands of publisher sites. Cool idea as many online publishers know - Google's AdSense isn't exactly the highest paying CPMs (cost per thousands) out there and display advertising is dropping sharply.
WidgetBucks has been going great guns, according to Hulett. Today, WidgetBucks has 26,000 publisher sites that display its widgets. Across all those sites, WidgetBucks is seeing 1.5 billion impressions per month.
The question is: Are these widgets driving higher CPMs for publishers?
According to Hulett, WidgetBucks' clients are seeing a 50% increase in click-through rates and revenue. "In social networks, we'll do better than 10 cent CPMs," said Hulett.
So, how can such widgets drive higher click-through rates? For one, they're more dynamic and interactive. For instance, a user can retrieve information from a travel widget, without having to clicking through to the actual site. But this engagement utlimately helps drive more users to click through to the advertiser's site.
Essentially, they're applications, meaning users can interact with them. "Our ads are mini-applications where you can engage deeply with these ads," said Hulett. On average, users are spending about two to three minutes engaging with an ad, Hulett added.
To the extent that ads can be useful to users is great news for publishers. But what about the conversion rates for suppliers of products, such as Yahoo? I asked. Hulett wouldn't disclose the conversion rates, only to say, "While I can’t comment about their conversions, they do want to continue working with us."
Now, I didn't get into the fact that WidgetBucks is on the prowl! Yes, this startup, which has raised $17 million, is looking for other advertising companies to bring into its fold. What's WidgetBucks looking for?
Well, I can't give the interview away. You'll have to watch and find out.