"Blog" may have been the word in 2004, but blog advertising is still in its infancy. Thanks to some shared insight from Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads, I'll provide some smart ways to think about blog advertising, as well as debunk a few fallacies and misconceptions.
Why Buy Blog Advertising?
Blogs ads work because blogs serve as watering holes for niche influencers and opinion-makers whose loyal and impassioned readers are also smart, savvy consumers. Contrary to certain stereotypes, blog readers are not necessarily just young, hip college students. It's a hyper-literate audience; some blogs are read heavily by white collars at work, government politicos, and, especially, the mainstream media.
But blog advertising isn't for just any kind of advertiser. Typically, blog advertising won't work for old-line, entrenched brands. Their ads generally aren't interesting, thought-provoking, or human enough. Blog ads that work are as edgy and rich as blog content itself.
Blog advertising is appropriate for new launches, new products, newsmakers, and new school education, for example. To date, the best blog ads have been purchased and conceived not by agencies, but by small to medium-sized advertisers themselves. The decision-maker is the person who buys, or drives the buy, and understands the unique nature of blog ad creative. The fear an agency might have of offending an executive with atypical or provocative creative doesn't exist. Perhaps this is why agencies currently represent only about 25 percent of Blogads' revenues.
Ads That Work Successfully on Blogs
Blog ads must have a human voice; they must connect with people. Ads focused on special offers or incentives won't work on blogs because they lack substance and humanity. "Recycling creative from campaigns run on MSNBC.com or MTV.com is a mistake," cautions Copeland. One repeat advertiser that seems to get blog advertising is Turner Broadcasting, which leverages niche audiences to market niche shows.
Other best practices Copeland recommends: Use humor or sarcasm. Appeal to reader sensibility with solid copy. The advertiser receives extra points for ads with a timely news hook. For example, an advertiser selling Champagne would do well pitching celebratory bubbly on Republican blogs.
Like everyone else, blog readers love exclusives. Record companies could sell new albums by pitching a unique download available to bloggers first, like Eminem did.
Blog ads require different creative tactics. Blogads discourages fast or infinite looping ads, which it believes distracts or annoys readers and impedes click-through. Like the blog itself, successful blog ads rely heavily on content. A successful ad might be an image, plus several different sections or headlines; another might be a headline, an image, and some thought-provoking text. The best blog ad looks like actual blog content. Examples of successful blog ads can be found on ReveNews and Blogads.
Blogads' creative specs run 150 x 200, plus 300 words max, with the final creative sized to fit the content. Another blog network, CrispAds, simplifies creative by only allowing text ads, while BURST! Media offers all standard Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) ad formats.
Pricing and Buying Blog Ads
Blogads allows its publishers to name their prices. Prices are based on flat monthly fees, though the average CPC works out to about $0.40. Blogads publishers may also format the ad environment so it fits in with the design of their own blog. Blogads suggests for effective advertising, advertisers should expect to spend $1,500 to $10,000 per month, depending on the advertiser, the target audience, and how much reach they want to buy.
Blog ad networks offer both self-service and guided ad buys. CrispAds is entirely self-service, while Blogads offers both a self-service interface and blog media planning packages. In the case of agencies, Blogads typically pulls together a first round of recommended blogs, then the agency and Blogads refine the picks. Both Blogads and BURST! allow bloggers the right of first refusal on any ad to be placed on their sites, though Blogads says refusals don't happen often.
Currently, Blogads' bread and butter are news and opinion blogs, those focused primarily on public policy or the war. Copeland sees up-and-comers as sports blogs, gay blogs, tech blogs, and, particularly, pop culture blogs.
So if you have an edgy advertiser (or one with the guts to try edgy advertising), consider working blog advertising into future campaigns. You may just find a low-cost, high-return hidden gem of a placement.
Meet Hollis at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 28-March 3.
A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
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