Those of you who don’t live and breathe the software startup scene might be oblivious that a substantial fraction of Silicon Valley is following TechCrunch50, an annual competition hosted by TechCrunch. As if it weren’t enough to have A-list judges like Marissa Mayer and Paul Graham, there’s even the fortuitous timing of Intuit acquiring 2007 TC50 winner Mint for a respectable $170M.
Here in New York, I have to confess that I haven’t had my eyes glued to the proceedings. But I have been looking at some of the entries, and one that at least stands out as distinctive is Udorse (and no, I’m not just biased because they’re local). Their premise is simple: democratize product placement through “visual endorsement”. Everyone who shares photos can embed a “udorsement” and can either pocket the advertising revenue or donate it to charity. More details from TechCrunch (naturally) and VentureBeat.
Perhaps your reaction is like mine, uncertain whether to be awed or horrified by this simple concept. Indeed, given my penchant for using ad blockers, you might think I’d be ideologically against product placement.
But I’m not, as long as it’s transparent–and, as far as I can tell, Udorse passes that test. In theory, this is advertising done right: content creators monetizing their own content by advertising goods and services they believe in–and putting their own credibility on the line to do so.
Of course, it might turn out very differently in practice. Any way of making money online brings out the worst in people, and I’m sure we’ll see lots of people try to game this service if it takes off. Meanwhile, people like me will probably block the “udorsements” like any other ads.
Or maybe not. I certainly don’t block emails from friends recommending the products they like, and I actually wish it were easier to benefit from their sincere opinions. If Udorse succeeds in a way that feels like word-of-mouth marketing, I’ll be thrilled. I think it’s a long shot, but I’m at least intrigued by their approach.
ps. No, I wasn’t payed to write this post, nor do I have any stake in Udorse. I at least have to keep my record clean for the Ethics of Blogging panel next week!