- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

Key scratches, drill holes, baseball bats, glue and feathers usually are among the last things the owner of a 1994 Dodge Viper would want anywhere near his car.

But two Centreville men are trying to raise $1 million to start their dream business, so one has put his dream car on the smashing block.

Roommates David Pitlyuk and Jason Gunther, self-described “tech geeks” employed at local information-technology companies, started SmashMyViper.com last month as a way to raise money to open a bar “in a college-town atmosphere,” Mr. Pitlyuk said.

SmashMyViper.com features a million-pixel grid where advertisers can purchase 10-by-10-pixel squares in any quantity for $100, or $1 per pixel. Attached to each advertiser’s pixels is a larger ad that hovers when a site visitor drags his cursor over the grid.

“The bar is our billion-dollar idea,” Mr. Pitlyuk said, declining to provide details. “This [site] is the million-dollar idea.”

Mr. Gunther said he saved for six years before paying about $50,000 for the car last year.

“It’s literally my dream car since I knew what a car was,” he said.

Mr. Gunther said he can’t accomplish his bigger goal of opening a business on his salary. “We got our first taste of the real 9-to-5 job life and we don’t like it too much,” he said.

“Nobody’s going to care if I smash my Civic,” Mr. Pitlyuk said.

Mr. Pitlyuk and Mr. Gunther, both 23, were roommates at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

For a 10-by-10-pixel ad, an advertiser can key the Viper; $400 buys a drill hole. For $1,000, advertisers can throw any item that weighs less than 10 pounds at the Viper. Smashing the car with a baseball bat will cost $2,500, and nothing is off limits for $5,000 except removing the engine or otherwise rendering the Viper immobile.

After Mr. Gunther drives into a parking lot, the Viper draws a crowd on its own. The two men then interview people on camera and have them damage the car. For an extra $100, advertisers can have a SmashMyViper.com model do their damage and watch the video online.

The duo spent less than $1,000 in start-up costs for the site. Any new expenses will be paid out of profits they make, Mr. Pitlyuk said.

The pixel-advertising fad already has produced one millionaire.

Alex Tew, 21, a student in England, started selling the pixel squares on milliondollarhomepage.com in August. He sold the last 1,000 pixels for $38,100, the top bid in an online auction that ended last week, and has criticized the legions of copycats his site has inspired.

“We want to generate the buzz to make it happen again,” Mr. Pitlyuk said.

Analysts are skeptical.

“I see this as the Internet advertising version of a one-hit wonder,” said Nate Elliott, a London analyst for JupiterResearch. “Unless they hook media coverage, there’s almost no value here for advertisers.”

The pixel grid offers small spaces, no branding opportunities, and a cluttered environment loaded with hundreds of other businesses. Without media coverage, “a pixel map is unlikely to generate a whole lot of attention in the long run,” Mr. Elliott said.

Since SmashMyViper.com went live in mid-December, advertisers have bought more than 5,000 pixels.

One advertiser used the space to provide links to the nonprofits Red Cross and Toys for Tots. Others advertise their small businesses. Mr. Pitlyuk said adult content is not accepted.

Shaun Carter, 20, from Holland, Mich., paid $2,000 for his ad on SmashMyViper.com. He said he was looking for a lively way to kick off his ad campaign for InstantCredit.cc, a credit card comparison site he started this month.

Mr. Carter said he was familiar with the Million Dollar Homepage craze and thought SmashMyViper.com “was so unique and so crazy that it actually might work.”

What did Mr. Carter decide to do to the Viper? Let’s just say it will involve a sticky substance and plenty of feathers, and could be on display this weekend.

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