Consumer Choice Ads May Not Yield Advertising Boom


The Pittsburg Post Gazette reported last week about a new online advertising technology that will let consumers choose which ads they view on the Web. The article examines the new software that start-up MSpoke, Inc. is releasing to help online publishers increase their already booming online advertising revenue by allowing users to offer feedback and ratings of ads and online articles.
With interactive ad revenues for 2005 at an estimated $12.5 billion according to March 2006 data released by the IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers, advertisers are clamoring more than ever to tap into the minds of consumers in order to target them effectively online.

MarketingSherpa also recently released its Third Annual Study of 680 attendees from the ad:tech trade shows who responded to the survey in the second half of December 2005. The survey illustrated that in-house blogs and RSS feeds were the favored emerging tactics for marketers, which indicates that targeting consumers is not just about cracking the code on how to get consumers to click and buy online, but is also about the online medium in which advertisers target consumers. Regardless of the technology that online networks use to target an engaged audience of buyers, marketers need to place their ads in the most effective online medium (i.e. perhaps in specific RSS feeds and blogs) to ensure the best return on the advertising investment.

The MSpoke software gives consumers the sense that they are taking an active role in the ads that migrate into their online spaces, but in reality this perceived consumer power has the potential to place consumers even more directly into the palms of advertisers. This potential will only be realized if the data gathered is specific enough to offer marketers ammunition that will really get people to click and buy online. This version of direct marketing seems vague because it is unclear how consumer ratings of content and ads will give advertisers the data they need to figure out more precisely what consumers will buy and to hone in on specific purchasing habits.

Depending on how the data pans out from MSpoke’s software, the software could be developed into a model that would benefit not just online publishers. For example, imagine if consumers could rate ads along with products (instead of articles) on various websites. Amazon and a host of other product sites allow users to rate and review products, AOL’s Moviefone tracks its users’ most requested movies, and Citysearch users can vote for their favorites in several categories including hotels, restaurants, and nightlife.

If users on these websites could also communicate their likes or dislikes about ads on the sites, users would produce valuable information to lure future advertisers to market their brands on the sites. But, the question still remains whether MSpoke or anyone else has or will develop technology that will harness this prime information for web sites and their advertisers.


  1. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of such technology, and I’m skeptical. Why would consumers go through such effort to rate advertising just to receive… more advertising? There are some notable differences between, say, an ad for a digital camera, a review of that camera, and a page where one can buy that camera. They offer different value propositions, and treating them all as one and the same is like saying you should eat an apple with a straw because that’s how you drink apple juice.

  2. What is the consumer benefit? What do I get of value for playing along?

    A more enjoyable experience avoiding the ad while I hunt content.

    More relevance because they targeted my profile and I might be interested in an offering.

    The same boring ad in a new place and time.

    Targeting by context or behavior is nice, but I still see the advertiser placing the same boring banner.

    If I’m at a travel site, I want the Coke ad to show the can on the beach and a “wet and cold” message of anticipation. If I’m looking at auto content, I want the Coke can in a cup holder with an “along for the ride” message. At,, or, I want the celebrity sell, and at I want an offer to win a years supply.

    The point being: surround the brand with multiple messages and romance the customer with all of them until they react. Repeat. Reward. Succeed.

    Let’s all think about the message in the medium.

  3. As VP of Marketing for mSpoke, I’m delighted that your fine publication has taken an interest in what we are doing. Although we’ve never spoken directly, you have done a great job gleaning some important facts/ insights from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette article.

    You are correct in pointing out that we are a company focused on “empowering consumers to make media relevant.” For us, media includes both online content and online advertising. At mSpoke, we have a unique technology that enables us to work with the consumers to ensure that both content and advertising are personally relevant. This approach provides significant benefits to the consumer in that it eliminates the irrelevant ad clutter that currently inundates their lives. It also saves them valuable time, energy, and even money by delivering up only the most personally relevant content. Consumers no longer have to spend time sifting through large amounts of content (albeit stories, RSS feeds, or blog posts) to find the few things that are most interesting and relevant.

    As you have also noted, our approach brings benefits to the advertisers and the publishers as well. Advertisers can achieve measure campaign lift in reaching target audiences across all phases of the buying cycle — targeting only those consumers who are actually interested in what they are selling/promoting. Publishers increase the overall value of their ad inventory and strengthen their relationship with their customers by delivering relevant content and eliminating non-relevant advertising.

    We’ve worked hard to create a win-win-win solution that benefits all parties involved — consumers, advertisers, and publishers. Over the coming weeks, we will be formally launching the company and talking more about exactly how we do this and why it is both effective and scalable. In the meantime, we’re always interested in thoughts and feedback, so don’t hesitate to visit our website ( and drop us an e-mail.

    Thanks again for the great coverage.


    Matt Fleckenstein
    VP Marketing, mSpoke


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