Edelman and NewsGator Team to Offer Conversational Ads

Despite some hiccups, Edelman has been in the forefront of brand and social media convergence this year, and a new joint offering with NewsGator Technologies is no exception. The PR firm has linked with the RSS feed platform provider to offer Edelman clients a product that pairs CGM, display advertising and the ever-popular Web widget. Deemed “Hosted Conversations,” the just-released offering serves snippets of online discussions on specific topics into advertiser-branded ad units. The objective is to facilitate clients’ participation and awareness of online conversations relating to their brands.

“We’re taking something consumers are already interested in…, taking quality content from that, and putting it in one place and allowing [advertisers] to sponsor it,” said Rick Murray, president of the me2revolution, Edelman’s global media lab focused on inciting change internally and among its clients. “This is an ad designed as a call-to-action to entice people to partake in a conversation.”

Edelman declined to name specific advertisers that may use the product, but Murray did say it is in review by major consumer packaged goods clients, as well as some in the healthcare, financial services and technology sectors. The company expects the first campaign to launch in early 2007.

The NewsGator-powered product tracks media relating to pre-specified subjects, extracting nuggets from blog posts, mainstream media, and video and photo sites. The PR firm will pluck the highest quality content from those sources based on criteria set by its clients; the choice bits will then feed dynamically into the chosen advertiser-branded units. We’re determining the “memes in conversation, who’s saying the most interesting stuff,” said Murray.

The new product follows another social media-driven Edelman offering. The company unveiled its StoryCrafter press release format earlier this month. The new layout provides key facts, multimedia, approved quotes, related tags, RSS feed links and other elements conducive to coverage by long tail media as well as mainstream press.

The Hosted Conversations product can take the shape of various standard display ad sizes, such as a banner or expandable unit through which users can submit their own comments to the moderated list of posts. In order to add their two cents, users may also have to link from the ad to a separate landing page featuring all chosen posts. These are subject to Edelman’s moderation before filtering back into the original display unit. The ad format will also enable users to e-mail or instant-message posts, NewsGator CEO J.B. Holston told ClickZ News.

The private-label product will allow brand advertisers “some moderated way to surface in that conversation and, in some way, be part of that conversation,” Holston continued. None of the bloggers or sites whose content is featured in the ads will be paid. Although the firm is providing the backend technology exclusively to Edelman for now, Holston hinted NewsGator’s media clients may be able to provide a similar service to advertisers in the future.

The technology itself does allow for a traditional API extension by which anyone could grab the unit and plug it into her own Web site. Edelman will not use this feature; rather, it expects advertisers to place the ads on specific sites. Media buying and planning will most likely be handled by the client’s agency, according to Murray. “This will definitely be a planned out buy and focused on high quality sites,” he added, noting the ads will probably be seen on blogs and high-quality publisher sites.

What happens if bloggers or other media outlets don’t want their feeds displayed in a space wrapped with a brand logo? “There has to be an opportunity to opt out,” said Murray, who said such requests would be dealt with on a site-by-site basis. Still, he continued, in today’s world of perpetual content distribution, “whoever owns the feed is [typically] happy for the traffic.”

“We think the way people communicate is fundamentally changing,” said Murray. “This is a way to have both those worlds work together.”

Related reading