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So much for whitespace: AdCamo launches background ad network

A smart business could paper blogs' designs over with ads.

Louis Dorman just launched AdCamo, a new advertising medium. AdCamo spots run on the backgrounds and surrounding space on Web pages and software applications. So instead of seeing all that lovely whitespace around your favorite blog content, you'll see your blog hovering over a giant, tiled ad.

It's brilliant. Also, it's terrible.

Why it's brilliant


Advertisers will love it. This kind of in-your-face branding is very powerful, and advertisers will pay for it. Compared with standard text ads, and even banner ads, these background advertisements simply cannot be ignored.

Until now, only big sites, like CNET, could engage with their advertising customers to secure these kinds of deals. When they did, they were lucrative.

Dorman says his technology, which pulls ads from his network in real time to publish them on his customers' sites, is protected by global patents. His unclickable background ads are served simultaneously with with standard banner ads, so the viewer can take action if they want. AdCamo has technology that measures the time between the background ad loading and any click activity on the ad's banner. The company reports this to advertisers so they can tweak their campaigns to get viewers more involved.

Implementation for publishers should be easy. A modification of a CSS style sheet should enable AdCamo campaigns to show up. Publishers will be able to select from specific campaigns or chose rotations in their category.

AdCamo is a technology company; the ads themselves will be sold by STG Media.

Why it's awful


Advertisers, as I just said, will probably love this concept. Some long-tail blog publishers might like the extra money, too. But users and readers will pay a price. These background ads can really junk up a Web page and can confuse the reader about which parts of the site are content, and which are advertiser-provided. Dorman says he will be hands-on with the advertising campaigns to make sure the visuals aren't too assaultive. However, I do not think that it will be possible to keep crap off of this network.

Let me be clear about this. While I am a big fan of clean design, my objection is not about preserving some anachronistic principle on what blogs should and should not look like. It's about readability and clarity. There's a place for advertising--even creative ads that steal your attention--and I don't feel that place is in the "useless space" (as Dorman calls it) on a Web template that some designer has carefully laid out to maximize readability and user comfort.

Dorman and I talked frankly about his company. I found him to be thoughtful, future-oriented, and in possession of good business smarts. That doesn't change my opinion on this product. I only hope the AdCamo campaigns pay publishers enough to compensate them for the attention they lose from their readers.