Blogs and Advertisers: A Perfect Match?
When the sports company Puma recently touted their sneakers on blogs, the German athletic firm followed the trend of many other well known brands. Even the most staid conventional companies are launching into the blogosphere these days as advertising is becoming increasingly individualized.
When the sports company Puma embarked on its recent online campaign to tout new sneakers, marketing manager Mike Neth heard words previously unheard in any of his company’s marketing meetings: “We should advertise on Go Fug Yourself.”
His advisor, Lily Triantafillou, media strategist at Special Ops Media, says, “To sell that to a client … is like, ‘What the hell did you say?’” But Go Fug Yourself, a very popular blog that trashes celebrity fashion, “was a good place for Puma to be.”
Since that meeting this past spring, Go Fug Yourself has gained more acceptance, even front-page coverage in the Wall Street Journal. And Puma couldn’t be happier with the results it got from advertising on blogs. Before the campaign, Neth thought of blogs as a “great medium to create awareness, but not to trigger purchase.” But the blog ads generated sales as well.
It is likely that similar discussions are being held in corporate conference rooms around the country as mainstream companies launch into the blogosphere. Blogs have been around for a decade, but it was only the past two years that blogging went mainstream. Blog readership soared 58 percent in 2004, according to surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. An estimated 32 million Americans were reading blogs by the end of last year.
As a result, blog advertising “exploded in the past year,” says Triantafillou. It has become “something that advertisers can’t ignore.” Even the most staid conventional brands are advertising on blogs these days. Car manufacturers such as Audi and Volvo, film studios such as Focus Features and Lions Gate Films, and sports and fashion designers such as Nike and Levi’s are only a few of them. A year ago, Special Ops Media did not have blogs on their plans. Now blogs figure in at least half, Triantafillou says.
“It is still the early adopters using them. And those are the ones we are trying to reach,” explains Puma’s Neth.
“Instead of throwing a large blanket,” such as “buying the homepage of Yahoo for $300,000 for one day,” blog advertising get you “right to the target,” Triantafillou says.
And with companies such as BlogAds, which connect advertisers with bloggers, the meeting between two sometimes very different cultures can be easier.
BlogAds represents around 900 bloggers and has about 400 affiliated advertisers. Compared to two years ago, bloggers are up tenfold, and the number of advertisers has doubled, says founder Henry Copeland.
As a result, what started out for some bloggers as their “personal but public journal” now represents an important source of income.
“I was shocked” by how many advertisers signed up, says Patty Shaw, a 25-year-old pre-school teacher, whose blog, BabyChic101, talks about the must-haves for fashionable babies. Since Shaw joined BlogAds in January 2005, she has gained 21 advertisers and is earning about $500 a month.
BlogAds was the first company to organize bloggers into networks. For instance, advertisers can buy space across networks of gay blogads, baseball blogs or conservative blogs instead of going individually to separate blogs. A small, independent, progressive film would go into a network for progressive-leaning sites.
Blog advertising is powerful because bloggers represent an influential crowd of doers, Triantafillou says. They go to museums, to movies and to restaurants, and on a whole, they “tend to be more intellectual.”
Besides hitting a unique audience, blog advertising is cost effective. Although DailyKos, the highest trafficked political blog on the Web with about 5 million page views per month, charges $5,000 a week on BlogAds, an ad on Shaw’s blog, trafficked by 15,000 per month, costs only $30 a week. Puma, in fact, spent just four percent of their marketing budget on blogs in the SOoo fast campaign, Neth says.
But not all ads work well on blogs. “A lot of advertisers haven’t found out how to talk to people as people,” Copeland says. Advertisers need to talk on a person-to-person level. The traditional way of advertising to big groups would be missing the point of what is going on with blogs, he says. A good blog ad, he explains, should be talking “directly to the people it should be talking to.”
Companies have to “get used to the fact that individuals have a lot of power,” Copeland says. Puma experienced that firsthand two years ago when a fake ad made its way into blogs. The ad showed a woman on her knees in front of a man, both wearing Puma sneakers. The suggestive image was cut at the woman’s shoulders. Puma strongly denied its involvement, and because of that, the negative publicity was more intense.
But with the SOoo fast campaign, Puma had a better fit with blogs. “It was a good match,” Neth says. Rather than pushing a product, the campaign was about getting people interested.
Still, there are some risks. “If you offer people a platform to communicate,” you must be aware that they can talk bad about you, Neth says.
Copeland foresees blog advertising to be hot for the next 10 years. “We are still in the early days.”
Triantafillou predicts that blog advertising “becomes another thing that you just do on a regular basis.”
Bloggers, such as Shaw, certainly hope so. “I would quit [my regular job] in a second if I made enough money,” she says.