January 4th, 2013 by Judith Aquino

Stipple-imageWhen it first came on the scene, image tagging mainly involved attaching your friends’ names to personal photos (sometimes to their dismay) on Facebook. Startups like Stipple and its competitors Luminate and ThingLink are taking image tagging to a whole new level by letting advertisers add an interactive component to images. I recently caught up with Stipple CMO Darr Gerscovich and Stephanie Palmer, the company’s vice president and head of distribution, to find out more about the business opportunities behind image tagging as a marketing tool.

CRM: What does Stipple do?
Stephanie Palmer:
If you think of the images across the Web, they’re one dimensional. We connect purchase information, product info, social functionalities, and media like video to make it three dimensional and allow brands to tell a better story.

CRM: So Stipple is the middleman between images and ecommerce sites?
Darr Gerscovich:
Stipple is an advertising and ecommerce solution. We try to bring the storefront into the image. We recently integrated with Twitter and their Twitter Cards so when you post an image on Twitter through Stipple, the image becomes interactive. If Nike, for example, uses Stipple to send out an image on Twitter of people running, they can tag each of the shoes with direct links to the purchasing site, tag the runners, and attach a video. It’s almost as if the 140-character limit is no longer an issue.

CRM: Where does Pinterest fit into your business model? Do you see them as a competitor?
Palmer:
Pinterest is an incredibly fast growing publisher like Twitter and Facebook. They’re just one more publisher and a very important one in this marketplace.

CRM: What’s your policy on copyrights for images?
Gerscovich:
We provide the ability for owners of images to claim their images and their tags will appear with those images.

CRM: Looking forward, what opportunities do you see in image tagging?
Gerscovich:
Image tagging is an emerging industry and brands are still testing it. What we’re seeing is an opening for the monetization of images that is driven by meta-data. Advertisers are interested because this lets them provide contextual information to drive reach and engagement rates…If you think of the marketplace, the challenge isn’t about tags. The challenge is how can you tag images in a scalable manner. We’re ingesting tens of millions images per month. And instead of tagging each image by hand, Stipple lets you update your tags across thousands of publishers automatically. This lets us give the scale brands need.

CRM: Are you working on letting users tag items within videos?
Palmer:
With video, users have all the information being tossed at them and typically don’t want to be interrupted. We’re very focused on images and while we could move to video at some point, at this time we’re solely focused on image space.

CRM: Best practices tips for image tagging?
Gerscovich:
 It’s about telling a story. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture that also tells you this photo was taken in Lake Tahoe or I got these boots for Christmas creates an emotional attachment. It’s not about just telling people to buy these boots now. Think not only of the purchase but also the branding opportunity.

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