When it comes to shortening URLs, bit.ly has been my weapon of choice for conserving characters, tracking analytics, and general organization. However, there is an appetizing startup looking to help you chef-up some additional flavor. Currently in private beta, Bre.ad gives shortened URLs five seconds of personalized promo before taking you to the final destination (ex: http://bre.ad/0ccfyw). Although yet to be released publicly, there has already been plenty of debate over its value proposition. An undoubtedly clever execution, but is this the reincarnation of the pop-up ad masquerading as self-expression? Let’s explore this in greater detail…
Upon logging in to the site, Bre.ad allows users to create personalized pages (aka “toasts”) comprised of a billboard (720×300), an avatar (110×80), and a tailored message. Toasts are fully customizable and seem to vary significantly based on the user’s personality. This includes anything from a brand or cause to some blatant self-promotion. Initially, I created two toasts: one giving a shoutout to reigning MVP Derrick Rose and one encouraging people to follow me on Twitter. Whenever someone clicks on any of my shortened Bre.ad links they will see one of my toasts (randomly selected) for five seconds before the actual website itself. Additionally, they always have the option to skip through by clicking in the upper right corner.
In my opinion, I find this five second pre-roll to be powerful when used appropriately. It can add some mysterious swagger to the links in your tweets showcasing something that you are truly passionate about. Think of it as a personal endorsement for something you feel is relevant enough to tell the world about. The dynamic nature of it is intriguing as you can update your toasts at your discretion and still generate matching impressions from any of your existing Bre.ad links. Another impressive feature is the ability to instantly shorten any URL by simply typing bre.ad/ before the URL in the address bar of your browser.
Notice the advertising terminology I have used so far to describe this tool (ie: billboard, pre-roll, impressions), but is this really advertising? The Bre.ad Team clearly doesn’t think (or want you to think) so, but it is easy to make that assumption if you are unfamiliar with the service. I feel like it truly depends on how it is utilized, however, no matter how you articulate it, it’s still advertising. Whether or not you can appreciate it is an individual preference.
Regardless, it should be noted that there are plenty of opportunities for misuse. It will be critical for Bre.ad to keep a close eye on the content of its toasts to prevent spammers from tarnishing its reputation. The last thing they need is to find themselves in a Chatroulette-like scenario with a perpetually negative stigma.
There are plenty of haters out there and some have already created scripts to bypass the five second interstitial period. Still a few weeks away from public beta, it will be interesting to see how Bre.ad is received when the novelty wears off. What do YOU think?