Open pre-proposal: EutopiAd

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This is an iteration on previous Open pre-proposal: Advis.

Project Title


What is your project

  1. From, the condition of [advertising] being properly placed, cf. ectopia.
  2. From, an [internet economy] ideal well-being, as a practical aspiration, cf. utopia as an impossibility.

EutopiAd is an advertising platform designed to incentivize prosocial behavior by attention intermediaries.

Currently intermediaries such as website and app publishers are incented to steal users’ attention and privacy and promote proprietary content. It’s only getting worse as digital media pervades all human experiences. Avoiding dystopia requires creative intervention.

We’re inspired by things read for the ads such as trade publications, local newspapers, and Craigslist, by noncommercial websites such as Wikipedia, and by ad-free public space, even ad-free cities such as São Paulo.

EutopiAd enables:

  • advertisers to associate commercial messages with relevant context (e.g., domain, topic, or location)
  • users to view ads most relevant to their current context – but only when they want to see ads, and without being tracked
  • intermediaries to derive a share of ad revenue related to their context – but only to the extent they avoid antisocial behavior

EutopiAd success will result in a safer and more noncommercial and open digital environment.

What assumptions will you test?

  • enough advertisers can be sold on placing ads targeting only specific contexts such as domains, topics, and locations, viewed on user demand – in contrast with ads targeted based on user tracking and demographic profiles, and viewed when user attention is stolen
  • enough intermediaries can be sold on partnering with EutopiAd, either because they already behave prosocially and wish to gain a revenue source, or because their antisocial behavior does not produce revenue satisfactory to keeping it up
  • enough users will look at ads associated with specific contexts (akin to reading a trade publication or local newspaper for the ads) to provide ongoing value to EutopiAd advertisers and intermediaries

Where “enough” means adequate to sustain a small EutopiAd operation, with growth indicating a potential trajectory for EutopiAd becoming a significant part of the digital economy, producing the “success” result of the previous question.

Who is the audience/user of this project? How will they be impacted?

  • advertisers will be able to associate ads with specific domains, topics, and locations, achieving highly context-specific but not at all user-specific targeting, much like successful advertising in trade publications
  • intermediaries such as website owners will have a new option for (some, but not maximized) revenue, while avoiding work and ethical challenges of ad and licensing revenue optimization; the impact would be improved results for website owners willing to engage in prosocial behavior
  • users/general public will be able to find ads specifically targeted for a context; further some will be motivated to become advertisers (or even sponsors for prosocial behavior intermediaries) given the ability to place such ads, or publishers, given opportunity to earn some revenue without the hard work, antisocial behavior, and dealing with suspect partners required for short-term revenue optimization.

What progress, if any, have you made on this project?

None on this specific project, it is in idea/research phase. We have built ad systems in the distant past (1994 and 2000) targeting publication context rather than users, and prototyped and threw away an ancestor of this idea in 2012 (we decided the ancestor was inadequate as either a for-profit or social-mission startup; EutopiAd leans heavily toward the latter). These past efforts inform the current project.

Also see and for our occasional thoughts very broadly on the topic of advertising.

Generic lots of submission rejection like that noted at Open pre-proposal: PALflix received yesterday. I continue to iterate advertising platforms intended to induce prosocial behavior ideas, more soon…