Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ideas For Startups: Advertising Ideas

In the spirit of my previous post on the value of ideas I've decided to write up a series of posts (each post following a theme) covering some of the ideas I've had for startups but haven't got around to work on (yet).

In this post I'll be covering ideas for advertising related startups. So without further ado, here they are:

1) A Real Demographics Ad Network

Plenty of websites (small social networks, forums, dating sites) have lots of information on their individual users in term of age, gender, interests, etc. But the only way they can monetize this information is by building their own ad network (as Facebook, Linkedin and PlentyOfFish did) that allows custom targeting. A third-party network that sites like these could easily integrate into would mean more money for the sites, more relevant ads for the end users and an alternative to Facebook Ads.

2) Facebook Ad Tools

Facebook's own ad tools suck if you have a large number of ads, there are a large number of ad optimizations which you have to do manually (adjusting prices to be competitive, keyword splitting, A/B testing images, demographic tightening) and for sophisticated analytics (tracking Unique CTR over time, etc.) you need to download the CSV data on a regular basis and manually process it in Excel.

The only people who have tools to automate these activities are large ad agencies. A tool for everyone else would be nice. Facebook's api is in closed beta at the moment, so you'd probably need an inside contact to get access.

3) Ad Network with Feedback

At the moment if you're running a website with ads (or affiliate links) you only know if someone clicked on an ad, not how valuable that click was. So you don't know which of your users are "high-value" (so can't attract more of them or give them extra benefits). A CPA Ad/Affiliate network that fed back the the value of the ad-click (in a way that could be matched back to the user) to the site running the ad would solve this problem

4) Realtime Adsense for Dynamic Websites

Adsense only works on sites that the Googlebot can scrape, if a site uses user specific content or generates content on the fly Adsense becomes mostly useless. An alternative that could process content in realtime using embedded javascript to provide context-specific ads would likely be much more profitable than non-targeted banner adverts (which is what sites tend to use currently).

5) Correlated Interest Finder

On sites like Facebook where you can target users by interest getting a large enough audience can be tricky as people often don't list all of their interests. However if you can figure out complementary interests you can use those to widen your target audience.

Figuring out complementary interests can be non-trivial though, but it should be possible to automate the process. Maybe by data mining a bunch of social network and dating websites to find correlated interests. Facebook has one of these but it's terrible. It tells you everything is correlated with "music" because it doesn't discount the fact that everyone has music as an interest.


  1. Nice post. Can you explain 3 a little more? I don't understand the notion of value in a CPA network. Value to which party? And for 4, you're dead on, but I don't like auto detection. How about letting the site owner feed keywords directly? I've never understood why there isn't an ad network doing this.

  2. For 3, in a CPA network say a user clicks through on an ad and buys something which results in the website (with the ad on it) earning $1. They have no way of tracking which user was responsible for earning them that dollar. So they can't distinguish between the users who click on an ad but don't earn them anything and the users who click on the ad and earn them hundreds of dollars.

    Generally ad networks don't let you feed keywords because of fear of fraud, and that's something that needs to be tackled, but I don't believe that's an unsurmountable barrier (you could use CPA ads which are much harder to defraud or automatically break websites into "tranches" based upon the quality of page views/click-throughs they deliver).

  3. Embedding intelligence into ads to measure feedback, provide context and improve dynamism is something that would give a lot of value. I think advertisers as well ads will see a lot of innovation from this kind of thinking

  4. I tried some of this stuff w/

  5. Imran-

    Thanks for your response. Can you tell me more about the fraud inherent in letting publishers send keyterms to ad networks? Is it all click fraud? I understand click fraud, I just don't see how allowing publishers to send keyterms incrementally increases click fraud.

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