Auto-Generated Online Ads Use Some Web Images

Last Friday, the New York Times ran an article titled, “An Ad Engine to Put ‘Mad Men’ Out of Business” which talked about an online service called PlaceLocal that automatically creates online ads. From the article:

“New software called PlaceLocal builds display ads automatically, scouring the Internet for references to a neighborhood restaurant, a grocery store or another local business. Then it combines the photographs it finds with reviews, customer comments and other text into a customized online ad for the business.

The program, developed by PaperG, an advertising technology company in New Haven, Conn., is aimed in part at small businesses just beginning to advertise on the Web sites of local newspapers or television stations, said Victor Wong, its chief executive.”

I was immediately intrigued about how the service works so I went to the site and created an ad for a my favorite deli here in Detroit, The Russell Street Deli.  The ad it created in less than two minutes was fairly basic, but included moving images (using Flash) gathered online, and testimonials presumably from reviews on the internet:

OK, so it’s not the sexiest ad in the world, but for someone with a limited budget that precludes hiring a photographer, it would certainly work online.  The user can select from a number of sizes including vertical and horizontal banners and the site creates the new ad instantly.  Being a photographer, I was interested in how they were selecting images and whether any respect being paid to copyrighted content. My query to them in a form on their website:

I am curious as to how you eliminate findviagra copyrighted images from ads that are created on the fly, or if you do.  If not, how are the creators being compensated for the licensing of their images?   Cheers, Blake Discher,

Less than an hour later, Victor Wong himself responded. His answer:

Hi Blake:

Thank you for your interest in our product. We are definitely respectful of right holders, and make best efforts to make sure the elements used to create advertisements follow comply with copyright regulations. Specifically, we have taken the following steps to address copyright concerns:

.    We use content from our partners who have secured content rights
.    We use content from the websites of advertisers so they can reuse their existing content in their advertisements
.    We offer a library of stock photography as an alternative to customers without their own photos
.    We strictly adhere to restrictions of photographs offered under the Creative Commons or other relevant licenses
.    We require users to certify that all the elements used do not infringe intellectual property of others
I hope this is helpful.


A few thoughts…  It’s refreshing to hear that Mr. Wong is mindful of copyright issues and has created a system in which safeguards are in place to protect rights holders. Aggregation of internet content began with news gathering sites and it’s no surprise to see it move to this sort of use.  Because this model is sure to expand, it’s even more imperative that before images are placed online, they be registered with the copyright office, watermarked, and contain full metadata including your contact information for licensing.

What do you think of this service?


mike@party bus detroit michigan

about 10 years ago

I think the idea in general is great but shaky on the legal side of it.


about 14 years ago

I wouldn't personally use it... I'd rather build my own. But i think there are a lot of people out there who would really like this. As you said, some people have a limited budget. And just as important, some people don't care much what it looks like. How many times have you seen restaurants using TERRIBLE looking food pictures on their website, or in ads. I think they either just don't care, or they don't realize how bad it is. This would be perfect for them.

Larry@ Detroit Limo

about 14 years ago

I dont think I would use this product because how can you be sure that these images are ok to use. I would have to see it around for a few years before I would even think about buying it unless they hire their own photographers because as a business you may end up with a lawsuit and have to pay two times as much than you would have to pay for someone to do this for you in the first place.


about 14 years ago

wow technology is advancing will certainly be one to watch.


about 14 years ago

Interesting find Blake. I appreciate the follow up with the company. It will be very interesting to see how this technology advances. Rosh

Susan Carr

about 14 years ago

Hi Blake, Thanks for the post and for contacting PlaceLocal. I am curious about this in his list of acceptable image uses "We use content from the websites of advertisers so they can reuse their existing content in their advertisements". It sounds like he is assuming that all images on commercial websites are owned by the advertiser. This is not always true. The technology at work here is great and if we can work towards getting pro photos as an option with micro payments attached, the small advertiser might actually be able to utilize stronger images. Best, Susan

richard kelly

about 14 years ago

In a perfect world, photographers will have metadata that identifies them and possibly initiates an opportunity to license images in an efficient manner. Or optionally a system in place that would take note of the photographer's Creator ID and charge the user like google adwords for the number of page views and credit the photographers account. Either way allowing photographers to benefit financially from these sorts of revenue opportunities. Otherwise entrepreneurs will continue to scrub the web for images that are available for commercial use with no limitations. Which cuts out the professional. Let's make it easy to be FOUND. Let's make it EFFICIENT to do business with us. If in fact the company is using images with the appropriate licenses, they are forgetting to do one thing that the CC licenses require and all photographers should insist upon and that is attribution and possible link backs to the originating source site.

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