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The anti-advertising contest that promotes online advertising — provided it’s good

Art direc­tors and account man­agers seek­ing to boost the for­tunes of their online adver­tis­ing agen­cies have a new chal­lenge: cre­ate the first “anti-adver­tis­ing” video ad and win class time or $5,000-worth of video equip­ment from a Fil­ipino film institute.

An anti-ad ad for adver­tis­ing art directors?

Say, what? An anti-adver­tis­ing adver­tise­ment? Isn’t that an oxy­moron? The con­test isn’t quite as hos­tile to the adver­tis­ing indus­try as it at first appears; it’s not about putting the job­bing art direc­tor or account man­ag­er out of work, it’s about encour­ag­ing the pro­duc­tion of pleas­an­ter and more rel­e­vant ads. So says Till Fai­da, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the “” project, which is spon­sored by ad-white­out soft­ware com­pa­ny Adblock Plus.

Fai­da, who has a back­ground in online mar­ket­ing, says he’s not against ads gen­er­al­ly, just “annoyed by the cur­rent state of ads.” He thinks they can do a lot better.

Appli­ca­tions for the con­test will be accept­ed until the end of May, so art direc­tors might want to get busy soon­er rather than later.

From white-out to white-list

The ini­tia­tive sig­nals a sig­nif­i­cant change of direc­tion for Adblock Plus: hav­ing recent­ly con­vert­ed into a prof­it-mak­ing firm, it’s acknowl­edg­ing that adver­tis­ing keeps many pub­li­ca­tions in busi­ness.  Now it’s on a mis­sion to encour­age bet­ter ads, not wipe them out. Giv­en that its soft­ware is enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly used by some 45 mil­lion peo­ple who appear to get a buzz out of mag­i­cal­ly mak­ing ads seem to dis­ap­pear from the net, this is quite a time­ly recog­ni­tion of advertising’s cru­cial role.

Although Adblock Plus still takes dona­tions from its users, it’s get­ting seri­ous about mon­e­tiz­ing and nego­ti­at­ing deals with big web­sites: run unob­tru­sive, well-craft­ed ads, and the soft­ware won’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly white them out. They’ll be white-list­ed instead. Social news site Red­dit is amongst those who have signed up to such a deal, although no details have yet emerged about the finan­cial terms.

The new con­test has been cre­at­ed to diver­si­fy the Adblock Plus com­mu­ni­ty, with more design­ers tak­ing part (the firm wants con­tri­bu­tions from cre­atives instead of exclu­sive­ly from com­put­er programmers).

But in an inter­view with the New York Times, Fai­da (who lives in Cologne, Ger­many) con­ced­ed that, with hind­sight, pitch­ing the con­test as “anti-adver­tis­ing” prob­a­bly wasn’t the best strategy.

He said, “Maybe we should have had a native speak­er read­ing behind us.”

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