The reason that I say it’s brilliant is because the Zango business model incorporates a new twist on an old theme: offering free content in exchange for your viewing advertising. In the case of broadcast television, the commercials are what foot the bill for the free programming; but viewers often change channels or leave the room for sundry tasks and thus avoid the commercials. In print media, the reader cannot avoid noticing the ads, but won’t necessarily read or act upon them. In the case of Zango, while the pitfalls are the same (the surfer can close the advertising window without reading or acting upon its ad), the benefits are extraordinary, since the advertising is delivered contextually, based upon the customer’s searching and surfing habits.
The reason why I hate it is because as a consumer, I don’t want any application tossing advertising at me. Sure, there’s a lot of “this is how it works” info on the website and the company is very careful to explain itself, but doubtless most users won’t read the fine print before clicking the “I accept” button while impatiently waiting for that game or video download to begin – the mechanism via which the Zango software is loaded onto user’s computers. Having said that, since it’s removable through Window’s “Add/Remove Programs…” Control Panel dialog, I don’t have a real problem with it as it’s easily deleted.
For advertisers, tapping into the network is as simple as bidding on a targeted keyword: For example, the surfer does a web search on “phone sex” and a pop-up window appears offering your phone sex ad. This is as targeted as it gets and may be seen as an enhanced strategy for pay-per-click and search engine marketers looking for more quality traffic.
The problem (or biggest benefit depending on your viewpoint) is that “keywords” can include your competitor’s trade name and URL. In a market with only a few major players, it’s easy to see how such power can be exploited to not only make sales, but to deprive your competitors of sales. In my opinion, depending on how it’s done, this may be an actionable deceptive trade practice that is sure to receive the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.
Still, in my book, any tool that lets me reach surfers looking for exactly what I have to offer is a winner, and contextual advertising services such as Zango fit the bill.