In a way, Craigslist is the perfect example of a truly sustainable store. It's unlikely that a new bamboo chopping board or solar-powered gadget bought elsewhere will ever be as green as something that was already manufactured and might otherwise end up in the trash.
Of course, the guy down the street selling his used couch doesn't have the marketing skills of, say, the Pottery Barn website—and it's possible that some Craigslist treasures might not sell as well because of that. A group of marketers wants to help spice up listings with a new project that offers to turn the standard boring Craigslist ad into copy that draws more views, Classify is an "ad agency for classified ads," and it's free.
"We started this agency because we saw that there was a whole world of ads that really needed improvement," says Pat Davis, who is a copywriting intern at the New York City agency 360i and launched the project in his spare time with two friends. "As advertising connoisseurs, we felt that there was an opportunity to bring a little humor and aesthetic to an otherwise bland platform."
Classify looks through Craigslist for ads that seem lackluster, and then puts something more interesting together and sends it back to the original poster so they can swap it out—and get more traffic. They're also taking requests for new ads.
The revised ads, complete with new art, are more about entertainment than actually sharing any information about the product. From a Classify ad for a used two-slice toaster:
Not just any toaster. A toaster that makes celebrity lookalike toast once in a while. This thing doesn't even need to be plugged in because it makes its own electricity while floating in space.
The new creative agency has no plans to start charging for its services. "I think everyone can relate to how difficult it can be trying to stand out and sell things online," says Davis. "We see this as an opportunity to use our experience and design abilities to help the smallest of small businessmen and women. Basically, we want to show that good advertising can benefit people in a very real way, and we want to have a little fun with our skill set."
With at least 40 million new ads on the site each day, it's unlikely that they'll be able to help many people, since Classify is just a side project. Arguably, the ads could also be funnier. It would be interesting to see more experienced copywriters take something like this on, too—as Ikea tried to do in an experimental platform last year that marketed secondhand furniture with a full marketing budget.
But the project brings up an interesting question: If Craigslist is already one of the most successful websites in the world, how many more reused and up-cycled products could it sell with better advertising and better design?