Udorse: Give Product Placement a Chance


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!

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

4 replies on “Udorse: Give Product Placement a Chance”

Hi Daniel,

Glad to hear you’re interested in Udorse! We definitely want users to endorse things they’re really enthusiastic about rahter than just what they think will make them a buck, and we’re always on the lookout for ways to encourage and reward that kind of authenticity. That’s why it was important for us at launch to let users tag anything they want and link it where they please, and to explicitly disclaim payment by dedicating their partner earnings to charity. I’d love to hear form you if you have more ideas – we’re going to be working hard in the coming months to grow Udorse is a healthy and sustainable way. Thanks again for the write-up!

Trevor Austin
co-founder, Udorse


Trevor, my pleasure. I watched the video of the pitch you and Geoff delivered–strong presentation, as well as impressive results in just three months!

Of course, what you’re doing draws inevitable comparisons to the Facebook’s Beacon system, but there’s a huge difference between explicit endorsement through product placement and implicit endorsement through having your activity stream mined (let alone by a broken opt-out system!).

The open question is how people who see photos will react to the explicit product placement. Clearly apparel has a strong tradition in this space–people actually pay money to wear branded clothing. I am curious how well that will carry over to online photos of apparel, let alone to other domains. And, of course, I’m curious to see how you’ll handle the inevitable attempts to abuse your service if it becomes popular.

In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and always happy to share ideas. Thanks for stopping by!


I’m not sure about photoshopping a product into my pictures, but if I take a pictures of Coke can and Coke wants to give me money for that… Otherwise I will be photoshopping all brands out of my pictures.


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