Jingit, a local start-up, says it has a way to combat the commercial-skipping powers of the DVR: offer cash.
The year-old Edina firm has partnered with big businesses like Quizno's and Life Time Fitness to pay consumers a few dollars to a few cents to watch ads and answer surveys online. Jingit's founders believe the technology is a more effective way for advertisers to reach consumers who have the ability to bypass TV ads or who listen to commercial-free satellite radio.
"In the world of advertising, $275 billion to $300 billion is spent every year in the United States trying to get the attention of the consumer," said co-CEO Joe Rogness. "Everybody else gets paid ... except for the one person you're trying to get the attention of, which is the consumer."
Viewers get paid based on the length of the commercial and the surveys they answer. For instance, if consumers watch a 10-second ad for Quizno's on their smartphone, they'll earn 5 cents, which is deposited into a Jingit account. They can then use funds from the account to purchase songs from Jingit partner MusicMe.com. The company expects to add more vendors.
Once Jingit users have earned $2 in their accounts, they have the option of signing up for a Jingit debit card through U.S. Bank, which they can use anywhere. The bank charges $2 from the account to create the card, but there are no monthly fees to use it.
Jingit users can earn a maximum of $5 a week initially. For every friend that a Jingit user invites who joins the program, the user's weekly maximum goes up 25 cents. Currently, the maximum amount a user can reach is $10 a week.
Rogness, who founded the company with co-CEO Todd Rooke, said they believe Jingit's platform will help companies build loyalty with consumers. More than 13,000 people have used Jingit, which launched in August.
To sign up, consumers go to www.jingit.com and through that website, they log onto their Facebook account, which is required to use Jingit.
The site asks for information, such as a person's ZIP code, birthdate and cellphone number. The mobile number is verified and then consumers can start watching ads and surveys for money.
Users also can download an iPhone app to access Jingit.
Bridgitte Pounds, 18, said she's already earned more than $22 watching ads on Jingit.
"It's very refreshing to get something out of it," said Pounds, a freelance digital graphic artist from Bakersfield, Calif.
And after watching a Sony commercial through Jingit, Pounds said she now plans to purchase a Sony Bloggie Touch camera, which starts at $129.99.
"I think the advertisements themselves are what makes the products interesting, but what Jingit does is have you actually watch them unlike you had before," Pounds wrote in an e-mail.
Pounds said she used to click through online ads or ignore them completely. But Jingit is different because she gets paid and the platform doesn't allow you to skip or speed up the ads.
Not all Jingit users will see the same ads. The commercials are sorted based on the demographics brands are looking for. Jingit shares users' age, sex and home ZIP code with the brands it partners with, Rogness said.
Jingit launched with about a dozen brands in its pilot program, including Domino's Pizza, T-Mobile and Gatorade. The companies decide how much they want to pay Jingit users. Both the consumer and Jingit make money from the ads, though Jingit declined to disclose how much it earns per ad view.
"We just thought it was an interesting offering that could help us reach our audiences," said Karen Jayne Leinberger, a spokeswoman for Life Time Fitness. She declined to discuss any specifics.
Chuck Kelly, president of Minneapolis-based advertising agency Preston Kelly, said Jingit could provide insight to companies on what types of customers would be interested in their products. But Kelly also said since Jingit only evaluates users based on three characteristics -- age, sex and ZIP code -- it might not be as precise as other methods.
"It is one way of evaluating, but it wouldn't be the sole way to evaluate," Kelly said.
Jingit's Rogness said the company plans to give consumers the option of revealing their incomes or interests, but it won't make it a requirement.
Currently, the company isn't profitable, but it has so far raised $5.5 million in angel investments and has grown to 14 employees.
"It's really about the next chapter," Rogness said.
Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712