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09
Oct

Is Ello goodbye? What ad-free ‘Ello’ means for advertisers

Photo via Espen Sundve

Say ‘ello to Ello – the Internet’s ad-free answer to Facebook and social media networks in general. Brainchild of Paul Budnitz, graphic designers Berger & Fohr and creative collective Mode Set, Ello is appropriately cockney in its ‘up-yours’ stance against advertising and data collection of all stripes.

As stated in Ello’s manifesto:

“We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate – but a place to connect, create and celebrate life. You are not a product.”

Or as comedian Bill Hicks put it, “That anti-marketing dollar? That’s a good market.”

The cynic in us however can’t help but note the revelations in anti-corporate writer, Aral Balkan’s recent article entitled “Ello, Goodbye” that Ello’s founders accepted $435,000 in seed funding from FreshTracks Capital, a left-wing Vermont-based Venture Capital firm, back in March this year.

As Baklan writes:

“If a company has taken venture capital, you have already been sold. It’s not a matter of if, it’s simply a matter of when. (Unless the company goes under before it can exit, that is.)”

This seems to undermine Ello’s core proposition, because when you accept venture capital, investors have an exit ready.

But for all intents and purposes, Ello’s anti-marketing marketing is working.

While the network has been in beta for just over a year, in just under a week Ello has travelled at the speed of viral, receiving up to 45,000 requests per hour for new accounts to be made – so many that their servers crashed.

It’s a powerful statement being made here, one we hear often: People definitely don’t like ads. At least not the sort of tactless ads which invade your newsfeed for the apparent sole purpose of insulting your intelligence.

For advertisers, it’s a wake up call. That the same tactics won’t work. That when it comes to digital, the rules change.

Many agencies seem to apply carry-over logic from a pre-digital age when communications were largely interruptive. Now, we have to be thinking harder and smarter. It isn’t so much about the single message anymore, it’s more about creating a whole mutually beneficial ecosystem or platform around that single message.

As an industry, we talk a lot about integrated campaigns. What we really need are integrative campaigns, campaigns which are genuinely purposeful – functional, not disruptive. Or in other words, we need to make things which add to people’s lives, not detract from them.

Ello says many things, some of them conflicting, some of them innocuous. But one thing its almost universal uptake does say to advertisers is: innovate.

Written by Mark Starmach