New Play-Ad Concept Ready For Launch

Getting consumers to respond to streamed ads remains the Holy Grail for Internet marketers. But if Don Findlay is right, viewers will happily flock to PlayTheAds.com, a soon-to-launch venture that will offer them the chance to win cash prizes in exchange for watching and commenting on ads.

"To me, the question is how to motivate people to respond to advertising in this digital universe," says Findlay, president of the Kingston, Ontario-based Winswept Entertainment. "My answer is that you motivate them using the thing they like the most: money. Consumers like advertising if they choose to watch it - just look at the success of Ad Critic before Crain bought it up."

Indeed, for easy reference, think AdCritic.com meets iWon.com.

Here's how PlayTheAds.com works: viewers interested in viewing ads (and potentially pocketing some wonga) must first register with the site. After they enter a host of demographic information, they can watch as many streamed video commercials on the site as they want; for each ad they view, they receive a single "ticket" for the daily, weekly and monthly drawings. At the end of the ad, viewers are shuttled to a "window of opportunity" screen in which they can provide feedback to the advertiser or jump to the advertiser's web site (they earn extra tickets for each action). Marketers, on the other hand, can get immediate demographic information about every consumer who chooses to watch their ads.

For this model to work, Findlay believes viewers have to be properly incentivized. To this end, he plans to give away $1,000 per day, $5,000 per week and $20,000 per month to active site participants (he says the cash rewards will increase when the venture catches on).

"Look at the statistics for the lottery and sites like iWon.com.," he says. "Americans love money. My idea is to take the lottery craze, strip the price out it and use prizes to motivate consumers to watch advertisements in the digital universe."

Central to PlayTheAds.com is Findlay's belief that people don't dislike advertising so much as they dislike intrusive advertising. "Pop-up ads, e-mails that nobody asked for - those are the real problems," he says. He also believes that the potential of broadband and DSL technology has barely been tapped by marketers and their ilk. "All [consumers] are interested in now is downloading music and watching movie trailers," he quips. "I'm not sure they know how much else is possible."

PlayTheAds.com is far from functional at this point, though the site features a demo complete with peppy rock soundtrack (Findlay was a professional rock/jazz drummer before embarking on a business career). "I'm funding this myself and to be honest, I can't afford to blow a ton of money up front," he admits. "But I also think it makes more sense to go to advertisers directly and say 'here's what we want to do, come work with us.' We can customize the site to what they actually want, rather than find out what they want later."

The challenge, of course, is getting an audience with the Fortune 100 companies and media firms that Findlay hopes will be swayed by the potential of his new venture: "There's a market for this - I just haven't figured out how to get at it yet." He adds that pricing will be determined on a bandwidth basis. "Rather than try to sign companies up for a 30-second spot, we want to give them space increments and let them use it however they please."

As for the future, Findlay's plans are quite ambitious. If the site catches on, he hopes to expand the concept to the big screen - television, that is - via an ad-only network that echoes the PlayTheAds.com reward concept. "Hopefully in two to three years, we'll prove ourselves on Internet, then move to broadband/satellite TV," he says. "A channel where you can show the best advertising in the world - it seems like such a natural idea for marketers, doesn't it?"