Here's an idea. If you frequently update new prices and offers to your website, Dapper has just released (into private beta) a useful new service that will automatically turn your website content into contextual display ads.
Dapper, a startup that has been around for a while and has often crossed my radar, is an online service that can scan any website and automatically turn the content into machine-readable output RSS feeds, XML or widgets. But the new MashupAds service sounds like a true killer app for Dapper's technology.
What MashupAds does is shortcut the process of promoting your latest prices and offers out onto the Web, and in doing so it gives a company the opportunity to maximize the 'long tail' opportunity for its wares. Let me explain.
I'm starting from the premise that any company that sells its products or services on the Web will be sure to have a process in place for making sure that its website reflects its most up-to-date information. Many companies will also have a separate process for selecting its most popular or most competitive offers and running contextual ad campaigns for them. The beauty of MashupAds is that it seems to offer an automated means of conflating those two processes into one. So as soon as any price change or new offering is updated to the website, it becomes available to be picked up by MashupAds and inserted into a contextual display ad.
So this is where the wonder of automation kicks in. Let's say someone is surfing the Web looking (as I was this morning) for a replacement battery for their laptop. As you can imagine, I was confronted by a long list of relatively undifferentiated contextual ads all offering laptop batteries. The beauty of MashupAds, as I understand it, is that Dapper's technology would allow an ad to display content from the advertiser's website that was directly relevant to my search for example a picture and price of the specific battery part number I was searching for; and the ad could even include an 'add to cart' button. Since the content comes direct from the advertiser's website, it automatically reflects the up-to-date pricing (even stock availability) without anyone ever having to make a conscious decision whether or not to advertise that specific stock item.
TechCrunch reports that "Dapper has been testing MashupAds and claims a 3X to 5X improvement in click-through rates over other display ads." I'm not surprised, considering that the technology allows the ad to display more relevant content that shortcuts the buyer's search. As Yahoo's Prabhakar Raghavan said recently on a panel at Demofall08, "People intrinsically don't want to search ... They want to run their lives. The notion of a [mere] retrieval engine as the ultimate [tool] is incredibly limiting. We have to get much further along to task completion and fulfillment." MashupAds is a great example of one way to get further along the path to fulfilment.