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INGENIOUS SERVICE SWAPS UGLY ONLINE ADS WITH PRETTY PHOTOS

Display ads are a necessary evil. Publishers (like us!) rely on them to stay in business. Unfortunately, every time a flashing banner ad starts dancing in your peripheral vision, it erodes the quality of that publisher’s product. This is how the Internet works. You must accept it. Or you had to, anyway. Now you can subscribe to Adieu. It’s the first product from Fair Tread, a new digital media company with the mission, as founder Matt Mankins puts it, of giving users control over their web experience.

The idea behind Adieu is simple: Pay a few bucks a month to replace display ads with photos culled from your own image library or Instagram feed. Instead of that belly-fat ad or Amazon hawking a pair of shoes you’re probably already wearing, you could see family photos or vacation selfies. “I’m basically hacking that system,” Mankins says of the ad boxes littering the Internet, “to let users put things they want to see there instead of things they don’t.”

It’s a pretty simple system: Publishers sell ad space. Some of those ad blocks go to fixed buyers like, say, Apple or T-Mobile. Others get sold through an electronic trading system that uses data about your digital behavior to determine what ad should pop up. That’s why you might see an add for underwear or shoes. Adieu simply joins that auction and bids on ad space, which usually sells for pennies a page. If it wins, it doesn’t promote a product; it populates the box with a photo selected from a Pinterest-like board you’ve created. Because typical ad boxes are banner-shaped or tall vertical boxes, Adieu runs an algorithm to best determine which images fit and crop best into certain boxes. For a few cents a page, you see exactly what you want—and the publisher’s still getting paid.

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