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Meet F#, the New York startup that gets you to love banner ads

You don’t have to be a sea­soned account man­ag­er or a vet­er­an art direc­tor to know that ban­ner ads often polar­ize opin­ions. Some peo­ple love them, oth­ers hate them. But New York-based ad tech start­up F# (pro­nounced like the musi­cal note) has come up with an idea that might well swell the ranks of the “I love ban­ners” contingent.

The ban­ner and the beat 

Cre­ative art direc­tors who get a buzz from inno­v­a­tive con­cepts will love this. F#, which was found­ed in 2012, con­verts ban­ner ads into on-demand music play­ers and radio sta­tions. Its recent­ly launched AdPlay­er prod­uct might look to the casu­al eye like a reg­u­lar ad unit; but a lit­tle clos­er scruti­ny reveals the unmis­tak­able pres­ence of an entic­ing “Play” but­ton. It’s hard to resist it – and those that fail will be treat­ed to a music stream while they’re read­ing the con­tent on the website.

The oth­er thing that might have art direc­tors wig­gling their toes in delight is the fact that the music play­er can be opened up as a stand­alone pop­up. That allows users to go on inter­act­ing with the ad by lis­ten­ing to unin­ter­rupt­ed music even though they’ve nav­i­gat­ed away from the site on which it was fea­tured. In oth­er words, the often-derid­ed ban­ner gets a new lease of life as peo­ple choose to inter­act with it for extend­ed peri­ods (the exact oppo­site of what all-too-fre­quent­ly hap­pens with ban­ner ads).

Extend­ed inter­ac­tion 

The skep­ti­cal account man­ag­er may be won­der­ing what all the fuss is about – haven’t adver­tis­ers been using Flash ban­ner ads fea­tur­ing sound­tracks of one kind or anoth­er since the dawn of online adver­tis­ing? Yes, they have, of course – but obtain­ing licens­es for the music fea­tures can be cost­ly, and eye­wa­ter­ing­ly so for small­er brands who want to fea­ture well-known pop artists. But F# cir­cum­vents this: users can access a whole panoply of top music stars’ cre­ative out­put through an online radio sta­tion (think Pan­do­ra) – you don’t need expen­sive licens­es from rights hold­ers for that.

As F#’s CEO Dan Mer­ritts suc­cinct­ly put it when AdPlay­er launched last month, “This makes music acces­si­ble to brands that don’t have the mon­ey for exclu­sive partnerships.”

But there’s an impres­sive list of big names on the startup’s ros­ter, too, includ­ing Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, Com­cast and Adidas.

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