|Gawker publisher Nick Denton emphasized that he would not accept an ad from Wal-Mart. See a five-minute video excerpt from the session.|
Standing room only
The topic of the mechanics and trends involved in blog advertising turned out to be one of the three-day conference's hottest, drawing an overflow, standing-room only crowd to the Hilton's Nassau suite.
“If we were approached by Wal-Mart, they would not be appropriate for us,” Nick Denton, head of Gawker Media, told the audience. His readers, aficionados of what is hip in media, political and tech circles, would not accept any big, mainstream brand, he said.
Mr. Denton, a pioneer among bloggers in accepting advertising and running his 14 blogs around an ad model, has not been shy about accepting ads from name brands like Nike and Sony, which resonated cool among his niche readers, he said. Gawker Media’s stable includes Gawker, Wonkette, Defamer and Gizmodo.
Criticizing your advertisers
In a departure from mainstream media, blogs often encourage readers to critique their advertisements, providing a direct link for comments that are routed to the advertiser. Shawn Gold, VP-sales and marketing at Weblogs Inc., said the feature proves useful to marketers who were debating whether or not to start their own blogs.
Other bloggers on the panel concurred and even suggested that the blog content could poke fun at a sponsoring ad or brand and still successfully be ad-supported. The personal tone of most blogs ensures that the marketer is actually buying into the irreverent humor that has helped to create the blogger's audience.
Shawn Gold, president of blog publisher Weblogs Inc., said that because reader reaction is so crucial to the acceptance of ads, he also suggests a button with each ad that asks what the reader thinks of the commercial message.
Measuring blog response
Other than surveying readers, bloggers measure response to ads pretty much the same way other interactive media sellers do -- by traffic and time spent on site. But bloggers also naturally put considerable emphasis on buzz. They track the tone and tenor of discussions on blogs and other Web sites, using buzz-monitoring services such as Intelliseek.
An effort by Audi provides a good example. Audi’s campaign for its A3 model was an online sleuth game called "Art of the Heist" that included media buys on a number of platforms offline and online, including blogs. Buzz was measured by conversation on blogs and numerous testimonials from consumers, said Brian Clark of online production company GMD Studios, which helped develop the game with agency McKinney-Silver.
What’s the best technique for placing ads on blogs? While display ads are popular among blogs, branded exclusive sponsorships are great. “Use the old Texaco Theater approach -- find your own Uncle Wiltie,” said Steve Rubel of consultant Micro Persuasion.
Help in creating ads
The new frontier is getting bloggers involved before you run the ad -- get them to help create the ad. Whatever you do, don’t leave creative up to the marketer alone, panelists said.
“There’s a reason why companies are no longer co-creators of soap operas -- companies are notoriously poor creators of content,” Mr. Denton said.
Product placement is another strong blog ad technique, panelists said. One approach is not to pay bloggers to talk about a product, but to “get someone to sign up for something while they are having an emotional experience from something they are reading on the blog,” said Beth Kirsch, senior marketing manager, Audible.com.
Aren’t advertisers worried about attaching their name to content that might be objectionable or profane? That is a risk, Mr. Denton said, recalling how CheapTickets withdrew sponsorship for one of his sites when a “raunchy review on travel to Thailand” appeared.
Then he added, “Cool brands actually connected to the 18-to-39-year-old audience understand how to advertise on blogs.”