Six Apart Turns to MRM for New Ad Ideas

Six Apart launched Vox, a new hosted blogging community, and has teamed up with MRM Worldwide to plot the ad strategy and develop new ways for marketers to get involved.

Where Six Apart’s LiveJournal community is heavily used by teens looking to connect with new friends, Vox is designed as a tool for (mostly older) users to share stories, photos, videos or audio with family and existing friends. Access to all content can be controlled by the blog’s owner with five levels of privacy for each piece of content.

Vox does have social tools as well, with a “question of the day” and “Vox Hunt” to let all members share their ideas on a certain topic or post photos of objects found in a daily scavenger hunt. It also lets users connect their Vox blog with services they may already be using, such as YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket and iFilm.

Six Apart has been planning and talking about Vox for several months. The service was planned from the start to be ad-supported, but Six Apart wanted to do more than just show some banner ads on their pages, according to Patty Mitchell, VP of worldwide sales at Six Apart.

“If you look at some social networks, the ads aren’t done very well — for the advertiser or the user,” Mitchell told ClickZ. “We knew we wanted to do ads differently than they’ve traditionally been done online. Vox is all about personal communication. The type of environment it creates is rich for advertisers.”

To come up with new ways for marketers to work with Vox users, Six Apart teamed up with Interpublic’s MRM Worldwide, a full-service direct and interactive marketing agency. MRM, using Interpublic’s Emerging Media Lab, is working with Six Apart to develop ways to bring advertisers into the conversation, and allow them to interact with Vox users in a way that benefits both sides, Mitchell said.

For advertisers, this partnership presents an opportunity to create a new experience with their brands, said Lori Schwartz, director of emerging media at MRM Worldwide.

“Everybody’s trying to figure out how to play in this new and fragmented media environment. They want to find a way to create a conversation between themselves and the audience,” Schwartz told ClickZ. “Most of the things we’re looking at here are not about a typical media buy, though that will be a component. Vox presents opportunities to engage users in a dialog and do something innovative.”

Six Apart does have more traditional banner and text ad units throughout the Vox network, but even those are under a higher level of scrutiny, being screened by Mitchell’s team before they are shown on the site.

The Vox partnership is in its earliest stages, and no definite plans have been made yet, Mitchell said, but one thing the company will surely not try to do is hide advertising or disguise it in any way. “One of the challenges when you’re bringing advertising to a place where the consumer is creating the media is being 100-percent transparent,” Mitchell said.

MRM parent Interpublic struck a similar deal with Facebook earlier this year, which also utilizes Interpublic’s emerging media lab.

Six Apart has been focusing on ways to bring advertising to its hosted blogging properties, such as LiveJournal and TypePad.

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