The Emperor's New Homepage

Last September college student Alex Tew launched a new business to fund his college education. It was called “The Million Dollar Homepage.” His scheme was to sell advertising space on a 1 million pixel homepage to advertisers for $1 per pixel.

Believe it or not, The Million Dollar Homepage is sold out. Most of the ads are tiny (the minimum was a 100 pixel ad), so the result is a visual cacophony of banner ads like none you have ever seen. If it’s true that the average American is exposed to 5000 advertising and promotional messages per day, you can get your minimum daily requirement just by going to The Million Dollar Homepage every morning.

I can easily imagine the thoughts and discussions people concocted to convince themselves to make this marketing investment. “Just think of the PR value.” “We’ll capture so many eyeballs.” “It’ll be so hot, we gotta be there.”

How anyone could think this is great marketing is beyond me. It represents the worst of clutter culture, where the customer is so overwhelmed by noise that nobody (except Alex Tew) can possibly get something out of it.

And, of course, most of the ads it has attracted are pretty junky. Sure, the Times of London is an advertiser, but its ad is in the vicinity of one for “Busty Mousepads” and another one for “Revenge,” where a mouseover reveals this copy: “Get revenge on ANYONE quickly—send them a (fake) poo today!” Great proximity for the Times. There are, of course, the obligatory ads that are nothing but a micro picture of an attractive woman. Put your cursor over one and it will reveal “STRANGE DISEASES—Bizarre Medical Pictures.” Another female picture brings forth the copy “Medical writer/pharmaceutical and sales training.” Wow, now that’s effective advertising.

So Alex Tew seemed like the only winner, until some extortionists threatened to hack his site if he didn’t pay them. He refused and they shut down his site for 5 days, and now he’s being sued by advertisers whose ads weren’t viewable during that time. Yes, these litigants are just looking for more “PR value.”

Steve Yastrow posted this on January 20, 2006, in Marketing.
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