A Guide to Ads on Tumblr – What’s New and What’s Next

Last week was momentous for Apple, as the brand made its foray into Tumblr. Historically, Apple hasn’t put much energy into social media. It maintains a Twitter account for iTunes and its App Store, but none for Apple proper. It’s on LinkedIn, where it posts job listings on a regular basis, but its Facebook page sits inactive despite having more than 10 million followers. The Apple Instagram page, meanwhile, hasn’t been updated since late 2013.

Why did the brand choose to embrace Tumblr? From a business perspective, the move makes sense. Tumblr skews young and Apple, with its iPods and iPads and iPhones, has plenty to offer Millennial consumers. Format, too, must have played a part. Tumblr is a visual platform, and Apple is well known for its brand and ad aesthetic.

Case in point: the videos currently featured on the Apple Tumblr page. The brand initially launched four, all starring the iPhone 5C, but it has since added others and still more are on the way.

Shortly after Apple’s Tumblr appeared, so did the ads promoting it. I spotted one a couple of days after the blog’s launch.


Tumblr and Apple have something in common: Just as Apple has abstained from social media, Tumblr resisted ads for years until, in 2012, it gave in and introduced two ad products. In honor of Apple’s arrival on the social site, let’s take a look at what makes Tumblr worth buying into, and what awaits future advertising brands.

Targeted Ads

Tumblr started off this year with an advertising “upgrade,” as Sponsored Posts officially became Tumblr Sponsored Posts Powered by Yahoo Advertising. In addition to enhanced audience targeting capabilities, like gender and location, brands can now purchase ads on a cost-per-engagement (CPE) basis.

With CPE posts, advertisers pay based on the volume of social engagements their Sponsored Posts receive, and the frequency with which their ads are delivered is dependent on the creative. Brands can still buy in-stream ads on a CPM basis as well; these are capped at one sponsored post per advertiser, per user.

Multiple Options

When Tumblr first launched ads, brands could choose between a Tumblr Radar unit and a Spotlight post. Both placements showcased branded blogs, the former on the right side of the user’s dashboard and the latter within the site’s directory, which is split into categories like Business, Beauty, and Culture.


Today, in addition to those same Radar and Spotlight ads, Tumblr offers native in-stream Sponsored Posts on the Web as well as through its mobile app. Brands can use the Radar unit to highlight static photos, animated GIFs, videos, and audio content, and Sponsored Posts to do the same with the addition of text posts. What makes a successful Tumblr ad? GIFs, images, and video are the best-performing Sponsored Posts, Tumblr says. “Brands are in many ways the ultimate creators and storytellers,” a Tumblr representative told ClickZ. “Any post type with colorful, striking, and emotive content will capture attention and permeate the network by design.”

Diverse Content and Quality Art

One of the aspects of Tumblr that makes it so appealing to both consumers and brands is the variety of its blogs and visual content. Brands can take any approach to generating interest, as long as it’s creative. To promote season two of House of Cards, for example, HBO paired images of its characters with some of their most memorable quotes to remind viewers what they love about the show – complex characters and killer writing – without giving anything about the upcoming season away.


Last year, boy band One Direction racked up more than 100,000 Likes with a simple animated GIF of one band member giving another a playful slap. The ad painted the group in an authentic, playful light, but more than that it was surprising – just the kind of thing users love to share.

Let’s not forget, however, that Tumblr ads are really promoted brand stories, just as Facebook and Twitter ads are platform-specific posts first. Here lies the difference between traditional display advertising and ads on social sites. Brands must craft content that will appeal to the site’s users, all while competing with artists, animators, and all manner of imaginative people on what is arguably the most creative social community on the Web. To stand out, they have to deliver imagery that’s on par with what Tumblr users are accustomed to seeing, and be unique enough to stand out. In this companies like Apple will excel, but so will small businesses and niche brands that focus on quality first.

Pay close attention to Tumblr in the months to come, because marketing opportunities may be expanding further. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Yahoo-owned company might launch an ad network that would see Tumblr ads delivered to other Yahoo sites, or possibly an ad exchange.

It looks like Apple timed its arrival just right.

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