The Art of Advertising

Advertising has always struck me as one of the mundane elements of the internet experience.

It is something one does to pay the bills. (Well, to pay a bill. A small one. Maybe.) I’m not entirely sure how much selling advertising space really pulls in – I’m a consumer of the webcomic experience, not a producer. I see the flashy ads and shiny buttons, but not the numbers behind the scenes.

Despite that, it seems clear that it is a hassle to deal with selling ad space, and the business has gone through rough stretches without substantial returns.

The market doesn’t seem as bad these days – I’ve seen many comics running google ads, presumably due to it being low management. Something*Positive is one of a handful I’ve seen that run personalized advertisements. And while most places generally run ads from other webcomics, or online merchandising stores, Penny Arcade has ads from big hitters in the video game industry. Some of these companies are genuinely recognizing the webcomic audience as a player base – that’s definitely a good sign.

Still – advertising isn’t fun. It isn’t really interesting. It is, more often than not, a chore.

But lately a few folks are trying to change that.

Project Wonderful hit last week, presenting a transparent system for bidding on ad space, allowing a method that results in cheap advertising paid by the hour, not by the clickcount. More than that, it debuted with style. The front page is dominated by a randomly selected piece of powerful photography. The page’s motto: “Advertising online just got totally awesome.”

There is no question about whether or not it looks nice. It is a damn elegant site. Whether it will actually be a success? Time will tell. It looks sweet, and looks like a great deal for those buying ads… but that’s only half the business. Selling ads stupidly cheap doesn’t do great things for those on the other end of the line. But it is an innovative concept, and one it will be exciting to watch as it develops.

It was with a bit of surprise that, only a week later, I got notice of another new advertising project: One Simple Ad.

Continuing with the elegance, One Simple Ad seems to set out to present advertisement in a new fashion – rather than have ads hidden away on the sideline, on this site they are the very focus of the page. One ad at a time, allowed to be as large and imposing as desired.

Again, conceptually exciting. Again, potentially not feasible. Advertising is almost always parasitic, attaching to some other medium that people are already observing. Standing alone, can advertising attract an audience for its own sake alone?

Hard to say – other gimmick based sites have certainly had success in the field. If word spreads and enough people find it interesting enough to keep an eye on, it may do well. Or it might not – again, I don’t know if I’ll be able to judge until I’ve seen it in action.

That said, I’m hoping it will succeed. The mind behind the project is T Campbell, who has contributed vast amounts to the culture of webcomics. He has had his hand in writing webcomics, editing them, contemplating them. But… creative minds don’t always have the greatest business sense, and from the sounds of things, all he came away with was debt. Which is a damn shame, because the man really did do a hell of a lot for the world of webcomics.

So if all I can do to repay that is to link his new project, and spread the word… well, here it is once more:

One Simple Ad

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