Saturday, November 26, 2005
ADVERTISING: Blogs become locations for new advertising
Published: November 25, 2005
By STUART ELLIOTT
The New York Times
THE parade of mainstream advertisers starting to use nontraditional media is growing almost as long as that march through
Manhattan yesterday sponsored by a certain department store.
Joining the throng are the Budget Rent a Car unit of the Cendant Corporation and the toy maker Hasbro. Budget turned to
blogs to promote a contest with a scavenger hunt motif, buying advertisements on 177 blogs bearing names like
BuzzMachine, Gizmodo, Jossip, Largehearted Boy, Overheard in New York, Stereogum and The Superficial.
And beginning next week, Hasbro will sponsor an unconventional series of make-believe classified ads to promote a new
version of its Monopoly board game.
The classifieds will appear in newspapers read by consumers shopping for cars, houses and boats.
Although the ads will resemble those that sell cars, houses and boats, the "merchandise" is actually in the form of
tokens from the new Monopoly 70th anniversary edition.
The campaigns from Hasbro and Budget are a sign of the increasing appeal of nontraditional media to once-conservative
mainstay marketers as they seek to reach bombarded consumers. The growing willingness to consider alternatives to
television commercials, billboards and print ads is one of the most significant changes in marketing in decades.
"I've got to be smart and make my brand feel smart to the consumer," said Scott Deaver, executive vice president for
marketing at the Cendant Car Rental Group in Parsippany, N.J., which oversees Budget and Avis.
"I can't outspend Hertz," Mr. Deaver added, "but I can outsmart them."
What is most valuable about nontraditional media like blogs, Mr. Deaver said, is their ability to "actively engage the
consumer" compared with "passive TV spots" and other traditional choices.
That assessment was echoed by Mr. Deaver's counterpart at Hasbro.
"When you do something unusual, unexpected, with something so well known as Monopoly, you can get a lot of talk value,"
said Mark Blecher, senior vice president for marketing at the Hasbro Games division of Hasbro in Longmeadow, Mass.
"We're not going to shift all our money into this," Mr. Blecher said, "but using innovative advertising you can generate
some word of mouth for a fraction of the cost of a commercial on a major network TV show."
John Staffen, executive creative director of the Hasbro Games agency, the New York office of Arnold Worldwide, estimated
that the budget for the make-believe classified ads was "a couple of thousand dollars." That sum is buying space in
publications like Deals on Wheels and Yacht Trader, interspersed among the classifieds from actual sellers.
Reading those publications is "what middle America does to live out its dreams," said Mr. Staffen, whose agency is part
of the Arnold Worldwide Partners division of Havas. That matches the dream-big theme of Monopoly, he added, as symbolized
by its brand character, once known as Rich Uncle Penny Bags and now called Mr. Monopoly.
The Monopoly ads feature photographs of the tokens from the new game rather than real houses, boats or automobiles. They
are written in the typically terse prose of classifieds, the better to blend in with their prosaic surroundings.
The car-token ad reads: "1935 classic. Just upgraded. Low mileage. Mint cond. Chrome finish. Runs like a dream in
Monopoly 70th Anniversary Edition. The best Monopoly board game money can buy. Call 877-MONOP70 or go to
The blog campaign for Budget cost about $20,000, Mr. Deaver said. The ads appearing on the 177 blogs asked readers to
visit a blog sponsored by Budget (upyourbudget.com) and enter a treasure hunt being held for four weeks in 16 cities with
cash prizes of $160,000. The final contest, in San Diego, ended this week. "Blogs seemed an appropriate fit for Budget's
young, tech-savvy audience," said Jay Arnold, president and chief executive at the Impax Marketing Group in Philadelphia,
which created the blog campaign for Budget.
"And fortunately, some of the people who won the contests were Budget users," Mr. Arnold added, laughing. The Budget ads
were simple, presenting cartoon characters urging blog readers to visit the Budget blog and enter the contests.
The blogs were selected, Mr. Arnold said, with the help of a consultant, B. L. Ochman, using criteria like how frequently
they are updated and how interesting they are to the so-called technorati. In fact, Mr. Arnold said, the tracking service
technorati.com was used to help pick the blogs.
Among some of the other blogs on which the ads appeared were Blurbomat, BoingBoing, CityRag, Coolfer, Daily Heights,
DCist, Gothamist, IndieWire and This Is Broken.
As online diaries, most blogs are by their nature candid and uncensored. As a result, "you don't have the same kind of
control of or ability to know the content as with mainstream advertising," Mr. Arnold said, adding: "There's no question
about the fact it's a little riskier. We want to push the envelope, but not be inappropriate."
The blogs were screened to cull those with content like "naked body parts," Mr. Arnold said, adding that he and Mr.
Deaver received no complaints during the month the campaign ran.
Mr. Deaver said he was pleased enough with the results of the campaign to have decided "we'll certainly be back in this
space." (The Budget blog tells readers the next contest will be "sometime in spring 2006.")
Even so, "the jury's still out on the metrics," Mr. Deaver said. "I'd be lying if I said I know what to measure to
By a preliminary count, Mr. Deaver said, the blog pages on which the Budget ads appeared had 19.9 million impressions,
which generated about 60,000 click-throughs to the Budget blog. That accounted for about half the total traffic to the
Budget blog, he added.
"I'm happy about those numbers," Mr. Deaver said, "but the real determination is, what do we learn? Are we smarter when
we do it next time?"
This article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.