VEGAS TRIPS CHEAP! CLICK HERE!!! Many of us have been greeted by online ads like this. This one heralded me recently while I was perusing the Web. It is a targeted ad, named such because it is directly “targeted” to users based on their browsing history (in my case, because I had searched for and browsed the website of the Red Rock Resort, a hotel in Las Vegas I recently stayed at during our annual Healthcare Staffing Summit). At best, Internet ads are distracting and often unwelcome; at worst, they can be downright counterproductive, especially in a work environment.

There are a legion of ad-blockers available in the market, but in a surprisingly refreshing coup d’état against the approximately $50 billion US online advertising industry, San Diego-based startup Intently enables individuals and teams not just to block ads, but actually replace them with a user’s own set of “motivational” advertising. In plain English, it lets individuals and companies “advertise” to themselves however they want.

“Our goal with Intently wasn’t to just block ads; it was to give people and companies a way to create ads that refl ect their values,” says Micha Mikailian, CEO and founder of Intently. “For instance, imagine an employee has a goal of X dollars in sales, and if they hit it they will take their family to the Caribbean. You could have images of the Caribbean pop up to keep that employee connected to the goal. We think the people who use this are going to be more engaged, more connected to their company and their work.”

Users sign up for Intently through their website, which will install an extension into their web browser. The service is free, and takes about five minutes to get registered. Once logged in, users create custom “vision boards,” which are basically collections of pictures and images that replace the advertisements you normally see in your internet browser. Users can also subscribe to vision boards that others have created. For example, a staffing firm could create its own vision board around its mission, values, company goals, performance rewards, or even as a recognition tool (imagine having a picture of the best performers at your company pop up in your browser) and have employees or team members subscribe to it.

The service appears to be gaining traction. Founded less than a year ago, Intently has attracted thousands of users — many of which are small businesses — and recently raised $500,000 to continue growth.

The Buzz:

Online advertising — frustrating though it may seem — is nonetheless a very powerful apparatus to motivate. Organizations now have the power to leverage that apparatus to target it where it should be focused: in engaging employees and reinforcing those companies’ culture and values.