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Marketing's New Rage: Brands Sponsoring Influential Bloggers

Barneys, Gap, Coach and other big brands are collaborating with bloggers to create new, controversial forms of advertising.

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Even with the surge in collaborations with bloggers, the traditional online display ad is not going away. Ads can reinforce a campaign with other, more interactive elements. When brands ask bloggers to create custom content around their brand or product, they typically run banner ads on the sites at the same time. For contests, ads on blogs can spur users to create content that spreads virally around the Web, creates engagement and increases followers on e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

Not every brand or agency wants to do integrated advertising or advertorials. Federated, for example, will not arrange advertorials in which a blogger endorses a product.

David Lipman of the Lipman agency, whose many fashion clients include Diane von Furstenberg, David Yurman, Burberry, BCBG, Lord & Taylor and St. John, prefers to work with bloggers as editorial outlets rather than as advertising ones. “We’re in a multimedia world, and you need to communicate on all cylinders,” he said. “I think the best way of working with a blogger is to get them deep into a brand [and] let them understand the brand and what the brand is doing that moment.”

Most of the time, he is not a fan of sponsorships, advertorials, product placement or giving away merchandise in exchange for coverage. “I find that disingenuous,” he said. “It loses integrity. I think that’s the whole point of the Internet — the freedom of it, the genuineness of it. It’s believable, it’s real, and that’s the best way to go about it. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Otherwise, if you force feed it like that, and you pay for it — bloggers have to make a living — but if you pay for it, it becomes an advertorial. Advertorials are the lowest form of advertising.”

Indeed, not every blogger-brand partnership is a success. Some efforts seem to get very little in the way of traffic or few views. Multiple mentions probably do move the merch, but not all influence can be directly measured. Some tie-ups, especially in the case of video bloggers, can appear cheesy or overly corporate or weird.

Hits alone do not necessarily translate into a success online. A message needs to be consistent across all channels so it is believable, or people will not buy, said Lipman.

“Bloggers are very, very influential,” he continued. “They’re a big part of our culture today, and they’re only going to grow. The blog is here to stay in a big way. We know how to advertise in magazines, but we’re still learning our way [online].”

 

 

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