Enter the Ads Worth Spreading Challenge

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There’s a worrying trend in online advertising. Many sites are reporting falling click-through rates — and marketers are responding by resorting to ever more aggressive ways of ambushing your attention. We’re launching an initiative to find a better way! TED’s mission is “ideas worth spreading.” You, our audience, are expert at identifying the things that matter and then sharing them with your friends and colleagues. In that spirit, we’re rolling out our search for Ads Worth Spreading.

Ideas may be free, but distributing them around the world costs money, especially when the audience is in the many millions. The reason we can offer our talks for free is because those costs are supported by our business partners. Unlike some, we don’t run long ads ahead of the talks — and never will. But we would like you to watch our partners’ ads nonetheless. And the best chance of that happening is if the ads evoke the same emotions a TEDTalk does. They should make you think, make you respond, make you want to share. They should amplify your passion, not ambush it.

So we’ve created a challenge to find great online ads — ads that elevate the craft and invent new forms of online engagement. We invite you to enter this challenge!

To get inspired, watch this talk, also embedded above, which explains our vision for Ads Worth Spreading.

Entries can be hysterically funny, stunningly beautiful, or just intriguing, fascinating, ingenious and persuasive. They can promote a product directly, or tell a story, or, even better, promote an idea.

Online video is the focus of the Ads Worth Spreading Challenge, and we will accept video submissions that vary in length from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. However, we will also accept and consider non-video submissions that introduce new online advertising solutions. Please note that non-video submissions are not eligible to win all of the prizes listed here. Please see our submission guidelines for more specifics.

We’re looking for ads/videos in these four categories:

INFECTIOUSLY COMPELLING: Advertising that is just so good — funny, smart, beautiful, useful, etc. — you want to talk about it and share it with friends. A highly engaging concept with an entertaining or gripping execution that makes you say, “I’ve got to show this to everyone I know.”

INDUSTRY IMPACT: Advertising so groundbreaking and innovative — in form and function — that it makes waves. Whether it features a first-ever or “I’ve-never-seen-that-before” element, these videos live at the intersection of creativity and technology.

TALK: Advertising that features a single individual sharing his or her idea or perspective, in the style of a TEDTalk (within 30 secs to 5 mins). It could be a CEO standing on a stage telling a personal story or an engineer sharing an amazing tech demo. It’s likely to feature insight, honesty, openness, ingenuity and/or humor!

SOCIAL GOOD: Advertising that attempts to right a wrong, fix a problem, raise money or awareness, and/or change the world. Winning work will feature a powerful idea or an innovative approach conveyed by meaningful storytelling that resonates with the viewer. These ads should be driven by passion with a call to action for viewers.

A multidisciplinary judging panel will select up to 10 winning ads – based on factors like innovation, intelligence, authenticity, humor, craft — and we’ll do all we can to give them a little glory. First we’ll unveil them from the main stage at TED2011 in California. Then we’ll feature the ad on, both on a dedicated, share-able page that will remain on the site for at least a year, and as post-roll ads that will run for free, for one week in March. We’ve also partnered with YouTube, who will feature select winners on the YouTube homepage, and as ads throughout their site. See the full list of prizes >>

Learn more about Ads Worth Spreading >>

The deadline for submissions is Monday, February 7, 2011, at 11:59 PM ET/GMT+5. Winners will be notified Monday, February 23, 2011, and announced at TED2011 in March 2011.

See the official Ads Worth Spreading rules. And please email with any questions or feedback.

We’re excited to see your ads worth spreading!