Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

No One Likes Web Ads. What About Web Ads That Look Like Magazine Ads?

Common complaint among Web advertising pundits: Web ads suck. Why can’t they be cool, like some of the ads that run in glossy magazines?

So here’s a start-up–funded by a magazine, not coincidentally–with the same point of view. FlipGloss Media, run by Yahoo veterans using money from Forbes, wants to make Web advertising that looks… like some of the ads in glossy magazines.

“We think consumers love the magazine experience, but we wanted to build something that is native digital,” says CEO Kerry Trainor, who used to run the ad business for Yahoo’s (YHOO) music site back when that was a big deal.

Unspoken but crucial part of the pitch: Not only are traditional Web ads boring, but the prices publishers can command for them drop every day. So anything that can command a premium–as certain magazine ads still do–would be a huge boon for Web publishers.

What does a digital version of a magazine ad look like? FlipGloss has unveiled a site today that gives you a pretty good idea: Basically, lavish slideshows with hyperlinks. Like this (click to enlarge, hopefully):


Move your mouse over, say, the picture of this model from New York Fashion Week, and you’ll find that she’s wearing a Charlotte Ronson dress; you can also learn more about the designer and where you can find her clothes (coming to J.C. Penney this month, apparently).

The site is fun to monkey around with, but if FlipGloss pans out, you’ll encounter its slides on other people’s sites. The plan: FlipGloss hands its technology over to various publishers, who sell their own ads and give the company a cut. Alternatively, FlipGloss helps assemble editorial/advertising packages for various publishers and takes a bigger cut.

FlipGloss has taken an investment from Forbes Media, my former employer (more disclosure here), and its advisory board includes several representatives from Elevation Partners, the private equity group that took a 40 percent stake in Forbes a few years ago.

While I can imagine Forbes finding some practical applications for FlipGloss–, for instance,┬áis a vigorous proponent of slide shows–the company will really need to find traction with publishers like Condé Nast, whose magazines are famous for their lavish advertising.

But while FlipGloss says it’s working with several unnamed publishers, I’m told it is not working with Condé Nast’s digital group. It would be good if the company could figure out how to do that.

The bigger challenge: convincing publishers who have built complicated systems to deliver crummy banner ads to try out another medium. And then convincing advertisers to pay a premium for it. Given that my livelihood is dependent on Web ads (you’re reading this story for free, right?), I hope someone figures it out.