Francis Bea

Banner ads are a dying breed. To drive this point home, Virurl hired “protesters” to picket the Javits Center in protest of online banner ads. While Virurl’s antic is guerilla, the consensus among speakers during ad:tech isn’t so far off from the sentiments that protesters were expressing. There’s no doubt that content-based native advertising units is the next generation of advertising.

Virurl’s CEO Francisco Diaz-Mitoma saw this trend as early as February 2010 before contextual native ad units were a topic of discussion. But the soft launch of Virurl didn’t come until October of this year. Luckily, the timing was perfect.

This year’s ad:tech New York was completely focused on contextual native ad units that are of high quality and high value to viewers. Essentially 2013 marks the end of the ice age where slipshod banner ads created in Flash or Photoshop ran rampant. This will come as a relief for consumers.

Virurl, according to Diaz-Mitoma, helps brands and publishers reach new audiences through content-based ad units. A network of over 15,000 publishers and influencers are syndicating Virurl’s contextual ads from brand clients like Sports Illustrated, Vice and Funny or Die. But if it isn’t clear yet already, the syndicated content is in fact ads.

Speaking in technical terms, any publication can be part of Virurl’s network of publishers that host ads. And the process of adding an ad is as easy as adding the JavaScript code for Google Analytics. Blogs or publications that want to host ads can identify the type of industry or category the blog or publication identifies with, then design and add a widget, or embeddable code, onto their site.

The simplicity of integrating ads is deliberate. Virurl targets the long tail of publishers who typically are clueless about monetizing their blogs or publications and neophytes to the world of publishing. These types of publishers also attract a niche audience. Because of this, Virurl will charge as little as 2 cents per click, which is a steal compared to Google AdWords campaigns and so there’s not surprisingly an overwhelming interest from brands. In the wake of constant inquiries, Diaz-Mitoma and his 10-man team frequently have to put their quality control hats on. He tells me that Virurl is manually rejecting advertisers left and right, like insurance companies, to prevent Virurl reverting back to the ice age of flashing ads and click-baiting.

From the publisher’s perspective, even though each click may cost just $0.02 and 60 percent of that goes to the publisher, Virurl found in its study that consumers are clicking on the content more often. Diaz-Mitoma offered me a more detailed insight. On average publishers are seeing 5.7 percent click-through rates verses the 0.02 percent industry standard for display ads.

But Virurl isn’t a get rich quick solution. There’s one rather significant catch: the quality of the content. Advertisers on Virurl are spending fewer dollars per click, but must keep in mind that “content is king.” Even on Virurl, any type of content won’t necessarily sell. There have been instances where advertisers funded a campaign for just $0.02 per click and the funding was depleted in just two hours. In retrospect, Diaz-Mitoma tells me, advertisers have spent as much as $24 per click, only for the campaign to fall through due its lackluster content.

He makes sure to explain that content will pay for itself, especially if it’s premium content that may be expensive to shoot. “If you’re creating a half-ass job to create content, it becomes very expensive. Although Virurl does want to make your content to go viral, it’s only as good as the content itself,” Diaz-Mitoma adds.

One campaign that’s fresh in the Virurl CEO’s mind was a campaign that was funded for just $20 by an artist from Israel who builds miniature sculptures. Despite the tiny investment, the artist’s content was distributed to relevant publishers and eventually ended up on the front page of The rate of return on investment there was in the thousands.

The next step for the company is its foray into a mobile solution that will display video-based ads for content creators. Diaz-Mitoma informed me that Virurl’s mobile product will be launching shortly.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest digital marketing and technology conferences and expositions. Check out for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech New York event coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.