Recently the Wall Street Journal Online quietly rolled out a new advertising campaign in partnership with United Parcel Service (UPS), one of its large ad customers. But in a split with the publisher’s previous approach to Web ads, clicking the UPS banners scattered across WSJ.com won’t take viewers to UPS’s company site, but to a branded microsite hosted by the Wall Street Journal and revolving around business content focused on the shipping business.
It’s the latest example of online publishers working directly with advertisers to create advertising content associated with the publisher, but still wholly separate from the publisher’s own creative systems. And it’s a trend that’s growing, according to Brian Quinn, VP of advertising sales and marketing, Dow Jones Online, which operates WSJ Online.
“The real creatives are publishers. Media is the creative now. How you execute with the media is where people are getting excited, and that’s where we see ourselves moving,” said Quinn.
Dow Jones Online worked with UPS and agency of record The Martin Agency to create the “UPS – Delivering Digital Insight” microsite which will be available until the end of June 2007. The site focuses on topics like globalization and maintaining agile logistics systems and provides not only links to relevant WSJ content, but video of Wharton Business School professors and blogs where visitors can comment on their logistical efforts.
By having the site hosted by WSJ Online and Dow Jones, UPS is able to provide a more relevant creative aspect associated with its services than could be found by linking directly to UPS itself, said Eddie Austin, VP/Associate Media Director for The Martin Agency.
“Part of it is giving people a chance to interact outside of the walls of the corporation. The creative is very inviting, it’s a one-to-one discussion. The fact that that they are utilizing the Dow Jones blog is very positive,” said Austin. “The creative is hitting the right core with the consumer. It’s a learning process as well, and we’re three months in and learning how to make it better.”
Although WSJ Online content is linked directly from the microsite, Quinn says that Dow Jones makes it clear that the site is advertising, that it can only be reached through clicking an advertising link, and that the WSJ Online editorial staff has no direct contact with the site. At the same time, it behooves Dow Jones to help create a site that has compelling content for users and is not just touting an advertiser’s agenda.
“When a user comes to the WSJ site, they are not planning on going to this UPS thing, they were planning on something else and they have to be engaged in some way,” said Quinn. “We really try to be very objective about the process we take on it. We don’t want to create something that just meets an advertisers needs. If we do something and we then took away the advertising, we still want it to be good content. If you see this video of a Wharton professor, that’s still good content.”
Hosting an advertising customer’s microsite also creates an additional level of operational need for Dow Jones itself, according to Quinn. As the site needs to be refreshed with additional information and updates from Wharton or WSJ Online for instance, Dow Jones has personnel in its Dow Jones Integrated Services division responsible for maintaining the content.
Publishers creating microsites for customers will also not work well in every instance, as “These microsites have big tickets attached to them, so it’s not for everybody,” said Quinn. He also said that publishers need a good relationship with the marketers and clients, and that the kind of discussions a microsite provides must be right for the company.
“If there is no core central idea, then we walk away from the customization and just let them buy advertising, which is not a bad idea either,” said Quinn.
While the hosted UPS microsite is the most in-depth sponsorship Dow Jones Online has done, the company has also worked with MIT Sloan Management Review to create “Business Insights” which is sponsored by IBM but is wholly within WSJ’s editorial control.
Separately, Wall Street Journal Online has also launched 10 new editorial blogs as freely available advertising supported content. Topics addressed by the blogs include a “Deal Journal” blog, as well as a Law Blog, an Energy Roundup blog and other topics.
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