May 26, 2005

blogvertising: "advertising is dead" reason #8647


Long-time readers of gapingvoid will remember from early 2004, when I spent a lot of time talking about my friend, Dave MacKenzie's film "Young Adam".

Dave has a new movie coming out, and Yours Truly will soon be blogging about that one as well, you lucky duckies.

Back when I was writing about Youg Adam, I was playing around with the idea of "blogvertising"... using a blog a way to spread commercial ideas (as opposed to commercial messages- and yes, there's a huge difference).

Sure, I was delighted to be helping my friend promote his new movie. But the "Blogvertising" idea utterly fascinated me, and that's what made me really get into high gear for Dave.

My audience reads my cartoons for free, in exchange they let me drone on about my friend's movie. It's not a bad deal. Besides, all the Young Adam plugs are clearly marked with a wee icon on the top. So it's easy enough for folk to skip over- it's relatively non-intrusive.

"Blogvertising" is a format that's not limited to the dreaded 30-second TV commercial, the beyond-useless webpage banner ad, the overcrowded magazine page, the half-second flash of billboards, or the despised junk-mail paper mountain. Yeah, as somebody who's been watching advertising closely for over a decade, I think it's pretty huge.

The only issue is how much does it cost to get the demographically-correct eyeballs to log onto gapingvoid.

Then this year other projects came along. First English Cut, then Thingamy, and then Stormhoek.

While none of these three examples are technically paying me "to blog", I have a business interest in seeing each one of these projects succeed. Ergo I find them genuinely interesting. Ergo I write about them. Ergo my readers hear about them. Ergo it helps get the ideas out. Ergo this helps drive the businesses forward.

Suddenly it occurs to me... besides my pet cartoon projects (t-shirts, books etc), this is basically all I'm doing for a living these days. For all intents and purposes, I'm a professional blogvertiser.

I've been thinking hard about blogvertising for a while. I really like the business model. Why?

In a word- "Overheads".

1. A blogvertising capaign needs three things: an engaging blogger, an internet connection, and the cost of getting eyeballs in front of the homepage.

2. A traditional advertising campaign needs all sort of expensive stuff. Besides the expensive media and the insanely expensive production (they only REALLY want to sell you TV, let's stop kidding ourselves), it has to pay for an advertising agency, the agency's payroll (with all those lovely back-room jobs), the agency's rent on the fancy office in downtown Manhattan, the fancy designer furniture that fills the office etc etc.

3. The latter's final list is very long and all of it is insanely expensive. And unlike the blogvertising overheads, none of it is getting any cheaper.

There's another three points to consider:
1. There has to be authenticity and genuine alignment, or else it won't work. What the advertiser is doing and what I'm doing has to be somehow in sympatico, or else it's just like traditional advertising- useless, overpriced, interruptive, huckstering slush.

2. Juxtaposing my ideas with the advertiser's ideas inform both parties' agendae, so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Working with gapingvoid made English Cut more fertile, and vice versa. Same with Thingamy and Stormhoek with myself. Two plus two equals five etc.

3. This allows me to actually test The Hughtrain in real life, not just write about it in theory.

So if you're an advertiser, perhaps you'd like to compare the cost of keeping me alive, versus the cost of meeting the payroll of your average ad agency. Do the math, then maybe drop me an e-mail if you want to discuss this idea further. Rock on.

Posted by hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 1:12 PM | TrackBack

seeking clarification....if a company was savvy enough, they could pay you a fee to blogvertise for them on your site? that is the gist of this? kinda of a more personal blogads campaign?

sounds reasonable to me and likely, way more cheap than hiring a traditional service.

Posted by: jbr at May 26, 2005 6:41 PM

Yes, jbr, that's pretty much it.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 26, 2005 6:44 PM


The only problem I see with the model right now is that there aren't nearly enough blogs as good as yours to give advertisers even 1/100th of the message impressions they'd like to have. The blogging numbers will certainly increase, although managing a sizeable campaign could produce quite a man-hours issue.

Perhaps that's a new campaign-management tool model.

Posted by: Doug Schumacher at May 26, 2005 10:00 PM

You think you're so clever for taking advertising so much further and creating 'conversations'. It only sounds clever because you're pretending it's advertising when it's actually PR.

Posted by: Schmoe at May 27, 2005 1:55 AM

Hugh, I've given this a lot of thought over the last several months thanks in large part to you and I have to say you're missing the chief, key, workable point so far.

I'm very clear now that the only way the blog ideas, messages, or products that those represent can be responded to is if, and only if, they genuinely mean something to the blogger. And not just a vested "interest in their success." I have concluded that it is the authentic passion, care, and enthusiasm of the blogger that is the magic factor here that forces the reader to engage. If anyone ever talked about a company, person, or object for sale that they really did not support thoroughly readers would a.) know it and b.) not care about it.

Conversely, if any of my, note the possessive term, bloggers shared something that they themselves respond to I would be highly likely to respond in kind as well. This is simply because what matters to one with shared values and beliefs logically matters to another.

Let me throw out an idea for you to consider in the development of your mechanism for this, what if there were a Google like auto-sort for all readers? What if my profile said; female, early forties, slightly whacked out, new-agey, Californian-American, into art, quantum-philosophy, and fine Shiatsu, etc. And what if the initial sort of my likes and ideas were codified to create a category system whereby bloggers would be sent out to my computer on an audition of sorts to see whether they floated my boat? If not, there would be a further winnowing down sort from the millions of blogs until I connected to those that were a wow for me.

Now, this is naturally being done in a mid-tech way right now by my simply checking out all the blog links of my daily bloggers and finding those that share in the good stuff I like.

Anyway, you are onto it all. I heard the figure was 2 million new blogs going live each month in the US. Seems we're going to need some sort of a filter pronto. Do you see any value in creating such a massively successful product yourself?

Posted by: Shelley Noble at May 27, 2005 2:18 AM

I hear what you're saying, Shelley.

I don't think I'm missing this key point you speak of.

I take "genuinely meaningful" as a given. But how it manifests itself is debatable, or at least, fluid.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 27, 2005 6:33 AM

[Wow!] ...2 million new blogs a month is A LOT.

I wonder if it's true or not. No matter, I'm sure the number's insanely huge, regardless.

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 27, 2005 8:50 AM

What's that thingamy thingy? It looks pretty much like vaporware, with NO concrete information at all, just bla bla bla.

And Stormhoek? That website shows your blog, so where's the "real" product?

I'm not sure if blogvertising will work at any real scale, since you say yourself that it must not appear commercial, but honest.

Posted by: Ulrich Hobelmann at May 27, 2005 8:51 AM

"I'm not sure if blogvertising will work at any real scale..."

You being unsure is usally a good sign, Ulrich ;-)

Posted by: hugh macleod at May 27, 2005 9:05 AM

If your blogvertising is to succeed you'll have to be sure that the contents reach the right target group.

For instance; How many Norwegian readers do you have? (I'm asking this question because I have something in my mind..)

Posted by: Roy at May 27, 2005 11:48 AM

advertising is dead

blogvertising = advertising on blogs


blogvertising is stillborn

or is that too cynical? Surely people read blogs to consider and discuss ideas and in doing so permit the author to send them ideas and occassionally recommendations. As soon as money impinges on the recommendations that the author makes, then the whole relationship has changed and it becomes interruptive marketing.

Posted by: john at May 27, 2005 12:19 PM

I read recently that while Generation X has great disdain for advertising, Generation Y doesn't. Everybody is part of the buying and selling of goods. If you impart genuine knowledge about something interesting, then where's the beef?

Posted by: Barb at May 27, 2005 2:08 PM

I'm with Hugh. Blogverts are testimonials, not ads. Blogs personality encourages us to trust the people who write them (if we don't we tend to stop reading). Blogverts will fail the more concious they become. Hugh's good at it because he only pushes products he like - Ogilvy (what a hero) - did the same thing.

It's the Apple effect - people rave because they actually like the product. Blogvertising shit won't work unless the blogger's cretinous enough to like rubbish.

Doing it for money will simply undermine the blog.

Posted by: Sam Sugar at May 27, 2005 2:18 PM