Tumblr Starts Internal Creative Studio Tapping Its Own Users

Brands Can Tap Content Producers on Paid Media Buys

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As it chases after more brand dollars, Tumblr is turning to its users to do the heavy lifting.

On Thursday, the Yahoo-owned social networking site unveiled the Creatrs Network, an internal team that works with upwards of 300 Tumblr bloggers to produce content for paid advertisers. Brands buying sponsored posts, for example, can use the platform's new cabal of "creators," who churn out images, gifs, text and video on the site.

"What we're aspiring to is advertising on the level of art," David Hayes, head of creative strategies, said at a press conference at Tumblr headquarters. Two years ago, he added, native was en vogue in advertising; last year it was content marketing. "We think this year is about content creation," he said.

The company is also introducing a broader collective, called Creatrs, that taps users for production for non-profits, media and arts promotions that are not advertisers.

For advertisers using the Creatrs Network, Tumblr said ad rates will remain the same, with the company serving as intermediary, helping brands select creative producers. And Tumblr, not advertisers, will reimburse the content producers, both in Creatrs Network and the broader Creatrs group -- "paying them, if and when possible, more than their rate," Mr. Hayes said.

Content from the new studio will spread through syndication across the web, Mr. Hayes added. He did not specify whether Tumblr would receive a cut of paid work appearing elsewhere. Also, he said the company was still determining the process for video. Tumblr introduced an autoplay video ad product in October.

Tumblr doesn't see the Creatrs Network as circumventing or displacing creative agencies, noting that the Network has over 20 production partners, which Tumblr will announce soon. Mr. Hayes said Tumblr has also worked closely with several creative ad agencies."What we've talked to them about, and what they've seen, is that our content is a small slice of what's going on in a campaign," he said. "We're going to them for approval. They're playing a huge and active role."

Tumblr noted that the new model has run pilot campaigns with multiple brands, including Axe, Olay, J.C. Penney's, Gap and AT&T. "Our ability to turn product into artwork is something that the CPG category is really excited about," Mr. Hayes said.

"I don't know what the exact opposite of a content farm looks like," he added. "But that's what we're trying to create."