NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Any casual viewer of reality TV or occasional reader of celeb weeklies knows the names Whitney Port, Kendra Wilkinson and Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian. But hard-core fans may be able to link a few brands with those starlets via ad-supported blogs that are becoming the latest vehicle for marrying celebrities with ad content.
BuzzMedia, a publisher of more than 30 pop-culture blogs and websites including JustJared, Stereogum and Okmagazine.com, and the official sites of Britney Spears, Ms. Port, Ms. Wilkinson and the Kardashian sisters, has spent the last few months creating branded promotions for its top talent. In July, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian created designs for Ikea for its "Dash Across Ikea" dorm-room contest, which was featured heavily on the E! network stars' personal blogs as well as other BuzzMedia sites. Another summer promotion paired Ms. Port with JCPenney for the contest, "Get Schooled in Style," in which one fan could win a personal shopping spree with the star of MTV's "The City."
Now BuzzMedia is launching a new talent-services division to better accommodate these Web 2.0 endorsement deals. The unit is headed by Craig Bland, the company's VP-celebrity programming and development.
BuzzMedia President Alan Citron, a former general manager at TMZ.com, described the new division as a "middle man between advertisers who we've become aware of through discussions of our properties and the needs they may have with celebrities," with the celebrities' own talent agents also playing key roles. "We're not trying to get into their business. This is designed to be purely complementary to their business," he said of the talent agencies.
In the case of JCPenney, Ms. Port and her reps at United Talent Agency participated in every step of the process, from having Ms. Port select her 15 favorite video entries for the styling contest to appearing in person at the launch of JCPenney's first store in Manhattan. The contest resulted in a 5% click-through rate on JCPenney ads on WhitneyPort.com, editorial coverage in OK magazine, unsolicited user-generated videos posted by Ms. Port and contest-related tweets to her 300,000 Twitter followers.
Another summer promotion featured Ms. Wilkinson, former co-star of E!'s "The Girls Next Door" and current star of her own reality show, "Kendra," facing off with the lead blogger at What Would Tyler Durden Do? in a blog battle of the sexes that helped promote Sony Pictures' "The Ugly Truth."
Doug Rohrer, a former sales chief for MTV Networks and BuzzMedia's new chief revenue officer, argued that the relationships BuzzMedia is able to foster between celebrities and brands are among the most valuable in the marketplace. They're also the hardest to execute, particularly as the value of word-of-mouth vs. paid social-messaging becomes more questioned than ever.
"[Paid tweets] are not something you can make people do, or even suggest, really," he said. "You basically have to say, 'Hey do you think this would be fun to do?' For the most part we're coming up with stuff that's fun and creative for the celebrities. It's not like they're gonna retire on a tweet at the end of the day. They don't need the money."
Mr. Rohrer said BuzzMedia sites reach some of the most-engaged consumers of celebrity content, and collectively account for 12% of the traffic from 18- to 34-year-olds on the web.
"We come to the marketplace with a lot of brands that represent different things -- authenticity, expertise and aspirational figures for the audience," he said. "Our goal is always to connect the value of that audience with the advertisers in a meaningful way."