Monetizing Impatience: the DeepArt Case

In my digital marketing courses one of the most popular topics is always the case studies showing the many ways in which a startup can monetize a product or service. Now I have a new case to add to my collection: the Deep Art painting tool site.

Created by five researchers at the the University of Tübingen in Germany, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, Deep Art is a neural network based tool that takes any photo plus a style sample image then creates a painting based on the photo in the style of the sample.

My first attempt -- a self portrait in the style of Edvard Munch, was better than I expected but hardly a great success. The second attempt was more satisfying, reworking the same profile photo in the style of a Roman mosaic.

Two samples of the work of DeepArt's robot artists: one based on a Roman mosaic -- a DeepArt standard style -- and the other based on a self-portrait of Edvard Munch.

There are just two samples in the first test because the waiting time for free images is measured in days. And this is where DeepArt becomes more interesting. After uploading images you can monitor the status of the neural rendering process on a page of the website. Last time I tried the wait time for free images was around 8000 minutes -- that's about a week of real time. Just underneath the estimated time, though, is a button to reduce that time to 15 minutes for a fee of €1.99.

Monetizing impatience: reduce the render time from thousands of minutes to 15 minutes for a small fee.

So DeepArt is monetizing the otherwise free app by taking advantage of our natural impatience to see the result, a technique often used in theme parks where customers paying the standard fee stand in line for an hour while other people who pay extra walk straight to the front of the line. The downside of this approach from the consumers' point of view is that there is no incentive to speed up the render time. In fact there is a positive disincentive to speed up the process beyond the point where people give up.

But DeepArt has other monetizing plans, too. Free images are just 500x500 pixel which is just big enough for a test and to make an original profile picture for Facebook. Larger images, big enough for printing and framing, are available for a fee. A simple high-definition download is 19€, a poster with a watermark is 69€ and a gallery print with no watermark is €299. Eventually rival web sites will compete with DeepArt, forcing the prices down, but meantime the creators of the site are applying for a patent so they might be able to generate revenue through that, too.

Building amazing apps, products and services is a challenge, but finding effective ways to monetize innovations is often much more difficult, especially in the online world where people have grown up with freemium models and are reluctant to pay for basic service. DeepArt looks like they found an answer to this problem -- provided that the wait for 500x500 images doesn't get much worse. 

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For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about digital marketing and other communication topics contact Andrew Hennigan by email at or by phone on 0046 730 894 475.


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