A collaboration between Condé Nast and social images aggregator Chute has led the startup to create its first advertising product, designed to use consumers' photos as backgrounds for marketers' messages.
Chute Ads will make their first appearance on Condé Nast Traveler's site next month with an as-yet-unidentified marketer. While neither Condé Nast executives nor Chute will discuss the finished Chute Ads product, the idea is intended to let users willingly have their photos featured within a standard banner ad.
In an interview with Chute co-founder Ranvir Gujral and Craig Kostelic, digital advertising director for CNT, the two told AdExchanger that the use of real-time photo streams in ads are meant to encourage more direct contact with brands and reduce the reliance on click-throughs as a metric that an ad was viewed.
"We see the amount of time that people are spending on social," Kostelic said. "The question for publishers like us has long been, 'How do we take that organic behavior and how do we put that into our environment in a way that will be interesting for brands and readers?'"
For Chute, which has just raised a $7 million first round funding led by Foundry Group, the discussion around advertising was driven by Condé Nast over the past few months.
"The idea came from within Condé Nast, who asked if they can use Chute inside an ad unit. We thought 'Why not?' and built out the ad product," Gujral said.
Chute and CNT felt there was an opportunity to take photo activity on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Flickr, and bring it into the publication's advertising.
Users' real-time photos are placed into the stream through the use of a hashtag connected to the ad unit. If it works, this could help address ways of combining earned and paid media in a more natural way while also promising that users won't get sick of an ad's visuals, since the photos float by as they usually would through Facebook or Intagram or any system that's being constantly updated.
"We liked the notion that users would never see the same ad twice," Kostelic said. "From an advertising perspective, you always worry about someone engaging with an ad once and wonder if it'll have the same effect the next several times. This will play itself out and we'll see the results, but my guess is that this will be a significant way of addressing creative fatigue."
Chute is wary of how users will react to the use of their photos for commercial purposes. Gujral and Kostelic say the ads will be clearly labeled, and the hashtags or other signifiers that move the image streams into the ads will be completely clear about the marketing agenda.
While location and other information associated with photo uploads is also intriguing, Gujral said that this is not about collecting data, although there may be places within the ad unit that users can share personal information for marketing purposes.
Gujral said, "Sourcing photos from Instagram doesn't really give you any deep information about a user. But you could drive people to the ad unit and have them opt in. For the most part, we're pretty cognizant of privacy concerns and digital rights management issues for people and the content they share on social media."
Violating those issues could cost brands. And given that these ads will be aimed at luxury-focused travelers who are already expressing an interest in a brand, the value of creating awareness may be enough for publishers, for marketers and for Chute. For now, at least.