A new startup is seeking to reinvent the short URL by turning it into a promotional tool for brands and causes.
At its core, Bre.ad is a URL shortener. It shortens links, syncs to Twitter and Facebook, and provides click analytics. But its big selling point is helping users promote brands, interests and charities through a full-page interface.
When somebody clicks on a Bre.ad link, he or she isn’t immediately taken to the webpage it directs to. Instead, it takes that person to a web page created by the person who originally shortened the link. The page displays a message from the person who created the link as well as a 720 x 300-pixel billboard image. The user stays on the page for five seconds before being redirected to his or her link. You can check out the effect by clicking on this Bre.ad link.
These pages (called “Toasts”) can promote anything from a user’s Twitter account to a charity he or she supports. For example, my Bre.ad page has a Toast to Mashable, to my Twitter account and to one of my favorite nonprofits, charity: water. Whenever someone clicks on one of my Bre.ad links, Bre.ad will pick one of my Toasts at random to show that person.
Creating a Bre.ad link is very simple. Just type Bre.ad/ before any URL in the address bar to shorten it (e.g. Bre.ad/benparr.com). Creating a Toast page is easy as well –all it takes is a message and two images. Users can even add a Toast somebody else made. This is especially useful if you want to Toast a favorite team, person or brand.
Bre.ad founder Alan Chan believes that people have causes they want to promote, whether it’s their company or a charity they fervently support, so he wanted to find a simple and novel way for them to display their passion. While Bre.ad isn’t public yet (its closed beta launches in the next few weeks), Lady Gaga, North Face and a slew of other brands already have Toast pages. There’s even an Explore function that lets you see which brands, causes and profiles are the most popular.
A URL shortener that creates interstitials has its downsides, though. We suspect some people won’t be happy to click Bre.ad links because it’ll force them to view an ad. The pages are designed not to feel like advertising, and users can choose to skip them. It will be tough to gauge public reaction to Bre.ad until it’s more widely available.
While the Bre.ad beta is still a few weeks away, the company has agreed to give invites to the first 500 people who email firstname.lastname@example.org with a request to try out the service. Take Bre.ad for a spin and let us know what you think of the service in the comments.
Lead image courtesy of Flickr, mars!
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