Frontiers of Value Subtraction

Terry Heaton calls Keystream‘s SmartAds “the dumbest idea I’ve heard in years”. What’s “smart” about SmartAds is that they appear in “blank” spaces in online videos. Those blue skies over the ocean? The wide green fairway of a golf course? The wall beside your sweetheart’s smile? Slap an ad in there. Same idea as billboards by highways, only worse, because it’s rationalized as a “dramatic improvement in user experience”. Robin Wauters at Techcrunch doesn’t like it either, and says so in Keystream Unveils SmartAd, Wants To Turn Watching Videos Into A Painful Experience.

It’s one thing to come up with a sucky advertising idea, but to fail so spectacularly at PR is two-fer of fatal dimensions.

One quibble with Robin, who writes, Obviously, there is a need to open the advertising spigot when it comes to Web videos, but this is not the way to do it. It’s 2008. Isn’t it time we thought past advertising, toward revenue models based on serving customers, rather than guessing at them?

Advertising even at its best is still guesswork. That’s the “pain point” we should be trying to relieve, and where ideas should show up that VCs can fund. Improving a pain in the ass doesn’t make it a kiss.


  1. Cam’s avatar

    Suddenly, the idea to print advertising on toilet paper seems less intrusive.

  2. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Having recently grokked the idea of Social Objects, I can say I would be royally pissed if someone stuck their ad in any of my social objects.

    The idea of just putting an ad where there’s no motion, just because someone might see it, is the ultimate in arrogance.

    I predict this will die a quick and quiet death.

  3. PC’s avatar

    Think of all the unused potential sources of sound! Why not put audio ads in the quiet spots of movies? That gives me an even better, more intrusive idea! (But I’m not telling – either I’ll make a business of it myself, or take it to my grave in the hopes of sparing humanity)

  4. Elke Heiss’s avatar

    Keystream’s CEO has replied to some of these criticisms. You might want to check the CEO’s comments out on TechCrunch, see below:

  5. Engago Team’s avatar

    These types of solutions are intended for (web) services in search for a business model.
    There will be enough interested parties as several have started up a service with the main goal to conquer as much market share as possible and then find a suitable business model – just like Google did.

    Still wondering who clicks on all these advertisements?
    The Natural Born Clickers (Starcom MediaVest Group: the 6% heavy clickers) – those people who you don’t want as an advertiser in the first place?

    We believe the consumer or the buyer wants to be in charge for finding and selecting his products and services by using search engines and gathering information from company and theme websites.

  6. Business Card Printing | PrintPlace’s avatar

    SmartAds are the most absurd thing I’ve heard in quite a while – and I’ve heard of a lot! I don’t understand how Keystream can get permission to put ads on other people’s videos. I would think most people would say “no,” IF they were asked. I haven’t looked into this in-depth but I haven’t seen a mention of how they got permission to do this to people’s videos. Anyone know?

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