About two weeks ago a new online service called “Bre.ad” was made publicly available. At first glance, Bre.ad seems like a run of the mill link shortener, but it goes quite a bit beyond that. The service enables users to upload graphics and ad some text to create what they call your “digital billboard”. When you shorten a link with Bre.ad, visitors are first presented with your graphic and written message for 5 seconds before being taken to whatever web address your link was meant to go to in the first place.

Essentially, this is a short pop-up ad that people see before being ported to whatever content you want them to see. It would be as if you saw Jason sharing his typical links on Twitter each day, clicked on one and got a 5-second advertisement for Exploring Social Media before the URL shortener took you to a post on Top Rank Blog or whatever piece of content Jason was sharing.

Pretty cool? Pretty spammy? We tend to lean toward the latter, not the former. Here’s why…

Trust

Trust is perhaps the most important currency on the social web. If getting others to click links you share is important to you then you might think twice before telling people one thing and then surprising them with another. When you share a link on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere  it is always accompanied by some text eluding to the content behind the link. Bre.ad links are no different. Rather than finding the content they were eager to experience, though, visitors are first faced with a blurb of text and an image before being automatically forwarded on to the desired content.

This is good, old-fashioned, interruptive marketing translated to the social web.

How many times will someone do that before disregarding what you share all together? Some folks are getting tricky and re-shortening Bre.ad links with other URL shorting services like Bit.ly as to mask the http://bre.ad/ prefix (see images below). This is only marketing trickery and deception and will likely cost the perpetrators more in the way of trust than they’ll likely gain in ad views or clicks.

This Bit.ly link is redirects to a Bre.ad link and displays an ad (below) before moving on to the mentioned blog post

 

DoDo Case ad displayed for 5 seconds after clicking the above tweet link

Time & Attention

Almost equally as important as trust is attention. Attention is a finite currency that is often almost already spent before the day even starts. How do you honor your customers if you’re willing to waste their time? Do you like watching commercials, being hassled by pop up ads on web sites, etc? Consider the fact that Bre.ad only displays your graphic (read: ad) and written message for five seconds. This is a short amount of time, but just long enough to interrupt the user in their quest to check out some cool content. It’s also just short enough to be impossible to read or absorb what you’re trying to pitch. In most cases, your average web page on a broadband connection should take less than 5 seconds to fully load. Add a Bre.ad link to the mix and you have at least doubled the load time it takes for folks to experience the content you were trying to share. Some clever folks out there have already created browser add-ons to help people circumvent the annoying 5 second ad.

Alternatives

If you are looking to bring some extra attention to a cause, product, service or anything else there are plenty of ways to do it. If you run a blog you can simply insert your advert or any other message at the end of your post, just before the comments. This is how it’s done here on Social Media Explorer. If you are producing video content, on YouTube for instance, then consider designing a graphic to insert at the end of your video. The point is simple … get visitors to your content first, let them experience the goodness of said content, then toss in a subtle offer or call to action. Earn the trust before you try to cash it in. There are dozens of ways to do this effectively. We do not think Bre.ad is one of them.

The Wrap Up

We’re not just picking on Bre.ad here. Any marketing tool or strategy that includes interrupting a user’s experience, risking hard to earn trust and wasting the customer’s attention all for a few ad impressions faces far more challenges to be accepted than alternatives. For some more thoughts and some comments from the founder of Bre.ad, check out this article from the Toronto Star.

And, as Jason reminded me in his review of this post, we don’t think Brea.ad is 100 percent bad or wrong. For some brands, particularly those with advertising-conditioned audiences, the service may prove fruitful for you. If you are a big brand buying online media, you’re used to crappy click-thru rates and inconclusive metrics anyway, so Bre.ad experiments may just prove incrementally better than your 0.02 click-thru rates.

But because of the reasons above, we would have a hard time recommending Bre.ad to our clients.

Do you have a contrasting opinion to share? Maybe you can help add some alternative suggestions to the mix? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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About Adam Helweh

Adam Helweh

Adam is CEO of Secret Sushi Creative Inc, a strategic design, digital and social media marketing agency. He specializes in the convergence of design and technology to provide businesses with more intelligent and interactive ways to connect with customers and grow. His clients have included Edelman, Broadcom, Stanford Federal Credit Union, the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Bunchball and others. He's also the co-host of the "SoLoMo Show", a weekly digital marketing podcast, and he has shared the stage with professionals from companies including Facebook, Virgin Airlines, Paypal, Dell and 24 Hour Fitness.

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