Google backed Pixazza: I’m actually impressed

Advertising platform provider Pixazza closed a Series A round of $5.75 million in February from A-List firms including August Capital, CMEA Capital and Foundation Capital. Earlier today they disclosed that the round also included Google.

Having Google on board is always a good sign, but even taking Google out of the equation, I’m still impressed, but let me explain.

Pixazza offers in-image advertising. Images on a blog or website are tagged based on what is in the image, for example, a dress, sunglasses etc. Each tag leads to a pop up that details how to buy the item. It sounds obtrusive up front, but in practice it’s actually not. Unlike some other platforms that are offering Adsense style units as overlays or below an image, Pixazza tags only appear on a mouseover. Users are encouraged naturally to view the tags by a small overlay that reads “explore this look” in the top left hand corner (this may be optional, we’re not sure).

The positives are that it’s subtle, and yet innovative: there’s been a few attempts similar to this before, but nothing quite as extensive. I’d consider using it, because it’s an untapped revenue stream that doesn’t impede other ads, and actually in some ways serves as a value ad to readers, because they can identify what they are looking at specifically.

There are a number of drawbacks. These ads are really just a tricky version of an affiliate ad, except that you have to split the return with Pixazza itself. In effect, that would mean low to nil returns for most sites; high volume celebrity sites though might go alright with it. Another issue is how items are tagged in each image: there’s no computer algorithm at play, instead each image is tagged by real people who match the items. Pixazza says that “high volume” images get priority, and can be tagged within an hour, which is all very well, but will it scale? Throw thousands of sites into the mix with relatively low returns from most, and you need an army of workers to tag, or alternatively it takes far too long to tag an image so you lose the immediate exposure if the image is in a topical post. The last hurdle is consumer acceptance: these are new, and as such there’s a steep education process in getting readers to both look for, and interact with these ads. Not impossible, but steep none the less.

That aside, the magic words are still “Google backing.” Some sites are calling this Adsense for Images, and no doubt that if it does work, Google may decide it wants to be more than an investor, and own Pixazza instead. Pixazza may not be worthy of a wow, but it’s refreshing to see a different take on advertising, and they potentially have a strong future ahead of them.