|While it is being promoted as a blog, the 'Art of Speed' lacks some of the qualities normally associated with Web log publishing.
The Art of Speed, which appeared earlier this month, showcases the work of 15 innovative filmmakers to interpret the idea of speed -- a branding concept Nike is pushing leading up to the Olympics. It was masterminded by interactive shop RG/A, which developed the site, the trailer and the introduction of nikelab.com. While R/GA is responsible for the overall Art of Speed campaign, creative for the blog is handled by Gawker's creative team.
Lacking blog qualities
As a film-showcase microsite sitting within a blog, Art of Speed lacks the typical personal voice and diary-like qualities that would normally earn the moniker "blog." But that maybe beside the point, interactive analysts say.
"If Nike's use of the description 'blog' is going to get people to come visit, then it's good marketing," said Nate Elliott, associate analyst at Jupiter Research, who runs his own blog through Jupiter.
Gawker's credibility is what really matters, said Colleen DeCourcy, executive creative director at online communications agency Organic. "In some circles, Gawker has more authenticity than Nike. That's why blogs really work for advertisers, because of the credibility of the blog."
Blog readers see themselves as insiders who get the big picture, said Steve Hall, founder and editor of adrants.com, a blog about advertising with a satirical, in-your-face slant. "People read Adrants because it's irreverent, but there's more," he said. Adrants has the attitude that "we're on your team, fighting a big corporation."
A growing phenomenon
This year, just 6.2% of consumers said they read a blog, Mr. Elliott said. The top four blogs, Blogspot, Typepad, Blogrolling and Bogger, reach 5.5 million people per month, according to ComScore Media Metrix. But Google's BlogSpot, which leads visitors through the creation of a blog, grew 56% in the last six months, according to ComScore.
Gawker gets between 500,000 to 700,000 unique visitors a month, said Choire Sicha, editorial director of Gawker Media, which operates six blogs.
But that won't worry Nike: For the footwear and apparel giant, the blog experiment is a drop in a marketing ocean, and it is a narrow-cast tactic being employed to engage a quality audience, not a certain quantity of audience. "Gawker is a very influential site among a community that appreciates creativity, film and interesting projects and who are going to dig deeper and find out the back story," said Nate Tobecksen, communications manager at Nike.
Influencers and evangelizers
"Nike is talking to the right people -- instead of the most people -- who happen to be the influencers," said Joseph Jaffe, president of Jaffe, a new-marketing consulting firm. "They will become the evangelizers and influence subsequent purchasers."
Beyond counting on the cool factor, Nike isn't measuring response. "We're getting some good visitation on nikelab.com right now [as a result of Art of Speed]. Look what's being said about us," Mr. Tobecksen said. "But we don't think there's any [precise] way of quantifying response."
Nike is not the only net-savvy marketer trying to take advantage of the blog upswing. Microsoft is working on MSN Blogbot, which presents relevant blogs to consumers in response to search queries, said Becky Emmett, an MSN spokeswoman. And Oxygen Media launched a blog to promote its new show Good Girls Don't.
Taking a traditional route
Other marketers are doing more traditional online ads on blogs such as Mr. Hall's Adrants. Such blogs use a number of advertising formats including advertorials, Google Adwords sponsored links and ads through BlogAds, a network for ads on these sites. But, Mr. Hall said, they do not bring in enough to live off.
Whether blogs will develop into a happening medium for big brands depends on whether they can figure out how to use the sites in the same spirit readers do.
Marketers can't really take part in the dialogue on the blog because it would be inauthentic. "It's like plastic surgery: You can tell fake conversations," Ms. DeCourcy said.