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Hand-Drawn Social Media Logos, Part of Editorial Series at Mashable Sponsored by Ben and Jerry's

This Mashable post caught my attention with the fun, hand-drawn social media logos:

Hand-drawn social media logos

Then I noticed the story is part of a Mashable dev and design series sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s new free-trade coffee line, Joe.

I like it. A “sponsored editorial series” on coffee, sponsored by Starbucks or Ben and Jerry’s Joe, would be fishy. As would be Mashable, all of a sudden, deciding to cover coffee news. But I see nothing wrong with corporate sponsorship of editorial content, provided the topic is far enough away from the sponsor’s product offering and still close enough to the publisher’s editorial beat.

What do you think — is Mashable selling out or is it building a better editorial product through creative advertising partnerships?

Full Disclosure: Chris Brogan and Kmart

While I’m on the disclosure topic, here’s Chris Brogan on advertising, trust and a recent sponsored post he did for Kmart. I’ve been a critic of Izea / Pay Per Post in the past, because early deployments of the concept didn’t always require that paid participants disclose the deal. You can’t say that Brogan, though, wasn’t transparent from the get-go:

“I have to admit that I haven’t stepped foot in a Kmart for a while, like probably since before they merged up with Sears. But this assignment was totally worth it. Basically, the plan was this: take a $500 gift card and figure out what was cool to buy at Kmart.”

And, regardless of my take on Izea, his response to criticism over the above offers sound advice to all online publishers.

“Businesses are trying to do exactly what we asked them to do. They’re trying to master our languages. They’re trying to talk to us where we are. They’re looking for new ways to talk and to advertise.”

Is that such a bad thing?! Perhaps a better question, though: Why does ad-supported media feel so shockingly new to some people?

“Those models all work on advertising-to-pay-for-editorial and editorial-to-keep-eyeballs-to-support-advertising. In fact, all previous media works that way. TV, radio, etc. Lost isn’t on TV because it’s cool. It’s because people can advertise against it….”

“In larger operations, there’s a bag man to take the advertising money and leave the journalists pure. I’ll get back to that point, because there is a line still, and that line must be respected. That hasn’t changed, and won’t change. But because there are many of us who are the publisher, the writer, the researcher, the customer service department, and the public relations staff, you’re going to have to seek a slightly different way to manifest that distinction.”

The solution to that problem? Transparency, disclosure and some more transparency:

“If there’s one thing that I feel is the hinge of all this, it’s disclosure. Have you read my About page? I’m going to bet that I disclose more of my relationships with companies than most people receiving similar opportunities, and the reason I do this is to be clear when something has the potential to be a skewed opinion, and/or when I stand to make some money from your taking my advice.

“The sponsored post about Kmart had the words ‘sponsored post’ in the title, in the first line, and in the last line of the post, with links to the company that sponsored me (Izea). The first paragraph explained the campaign and what I was doing for the project. It was very clearly a sponsored post. Do you disagree?

“To me, this can’t be much more clear.”

Yup. But disclosure alone isn’t the only rule to keep publishers out of trouble. Every publication that has an audience does so because that audience gets something unique from that publication. Stated or not, there’s a contract between the authors of that publication and its readers. In some cases, journalistic impartiality will prevent a publication from inviting a marketer into the editorial conversation, disclosed or otherwise. Each publication needs to understand that contract, and find sponsorship models that don’t put it in breach with its readers.

Shaping Editorial Content — Gasp! — to Aid Distribution, Ad Sales

In a Friday column at NYT.com (The Medium), Virginia Heffernan makes a casual admission that I don’t see very often: That editorial decisions at traditional print publications and newspapers are shaped by ad sales and promotional considerations. It’s an obvious and true admission, but one that is more often directed at the crass and debased kind of journalism that occurs online, especially at, ahem, blogs.

“Take an example from a recent issue of Self magazine. It contains an article about volunteer work, one that could have been written in a million ways. But because it appears in a magazine with newsstand sales, a subscriber base of women and ads from cosmetics companies and pharmaceuticals, it is, perforce, a colloquial personal essay that expresses in its DNA deeply held beliefs about how women’s magazines work and sell and survive. Specifically, it’s produced to engender and justify a cover line, that good old device used by glossy magazines to stand out on newsstands. In this case, the cover line reads, ‘The #1 Happiness Secret You Might Be Missing,’ and the story touts volunteering as a wellspring of contentment. That volunteering story is worlds away from one you would find in a private journal, a hardcover anthology, a paid advertisement or a travel blog.”

In this light, all the scary and revolutionary stuff called “conversational marketing” isn’t so new. The subtle (and deeply important) part of the job is figuring out if you’re Self Magazine, a hardcover anthology or a paid advertisement.

(This article came to my attention by way of a tweet by TheJames.)

Consumer and Advertiser Break Up: The Movie

It’s sad when relationships fall apart, and this movie looks to be a serious tear-jerker. You know the story — Advertiser doesn’t listen, offers coupons and a bigger logo when he senses trouble, but Consumer will have none of it, she’s done. The producer credit is “Microsoft Advertising.”

I saw this at Pete Spande’s Continous Beta, but the original source is Dave Knox at Hard Knox Life.

William Morris Execs Create 'Agency 3.0'

From Ad Age.

“Hollywood’s oldest talent shop, the 110-year-old William Morris Agency, is partnering with a triumvirate of digital media, wireless and advertising executives to create a joint venture called Agency 3.0, a digital-marketing-services company seeking to marry digital technology to strategically developed content….

“In an interview with Ad Age, Mr. Johnson said TV advertising ‘is becoming less effective,’ in part because ‘it’s highly disconnected from the creative process.

“His partners’ new venture aims to ‘bring the ad dollars that much closer to the creative process,’ Mr. Johnson said.

Smart idea and an impressive team. I bet, though, they will come to regret that name.

Battelle on Media Brands and How They Earn Their High CPMs

Great thought piece at Searchblog on the value of branded media online.

“Why is it that a brand marketer looking to reach college educated women, 18-34, is willing to pay $40 CPMs in Vanity Fair, but just $3 in an ad network?

“The first and most important reason is engagement — the reader of Vanity Fair is engaged in the magazine, and when she comes across that Lancome ad, the chances that the ‘between the ears magic’ will occur is far greater than at a random site run by an ad network. The second and related reason is creative — a two-page spread is simply a far more effective media vehicle for the brand’s message than the IAB unit.”

Overcoming these two hurdles comes down one thing: Marketers need to think like publishers. Publishers — a term I’m using here to include the creators of magazines, newspaper, websites and TV programming — are deeply committed to converting first-time trial readers or viewers into loyal subscribers or appointment-TV watchers; it costs far too much money buying audience, carriage and circulation (not to mention producing the content) to survive any other way. They must engage that audience. Marketers, meanwhile, recognize that it’s a waste of money to advertise with media properties that haven’t created engagement.

Marketers are also wasting money if they place advertising in high-engagement environments yet fail to provide creative that likewise engages the audience. The best TV commercials from the past six decades are 30-second and 60-second films that have overcome their miniature running times with brilliantly-crafted narrative arcs, evocative performances, catchy music and captivating cinematography. In other words, with filmed content. The creative units attached to online ad campaigns must move beyond call-to-action blinking banners. They need to become portals into content experiences that rival the great content at the best media sites.

Good Advertising Is Media

More on this from my colleague James Gross. I’d argue this has always been true — the best TV commercials are ones we watched because they were mini films that touched us or short, clever comedic sketches that made us laugh or 30-second songs we sang along to — or some weirdly wonderful combination of all three.

It Takes a Brave Man to Compliment the Ads On His Site

That’s the headline used by Steve Safran in his post at Lost Remote. Lost Remote works with FM, and Sprint is running ads on Lost Remote as part of its Sprint Cuts campaign.

“Have you checked out the Sprint ads that cycle through on the right of LR? Pretty good. Fast, funny, and — I have to say — clever. They’re part of their ‘Waitless’ campaign — ideas to save you time in your life. Now keep in mind that our ads are sold by Federated Media, so we have no idea what’s going to go into that space. We’ve also dissed ads that have appeared there, and so we’re not trying to suck up. (Much.) No — I think the Sprint ads are an excellent example of ‘advertising as entertainment.’ I went through a bunch of their quick videos, and spent time on their site. That’s worth pointing out on the rare occasions that it happens.”

Readers at Lost Remote, at least a few that commented, agree:

“Agreed. Clicked through to their site from here and I wasted a good 15 minutes going through the different clips. Though I still can’t get the hang of speed tying my shoes.”

And this one, which ought to get FM’s critics riled up:

“Those are sheer genius. (The ‘Turbo Parking’ one worries me a little, though.) Thing is, I would never have clicked on one if you hadn’t drawn attention to it… “

Steve and Lost Remote readers: Glad you like em!

Update 9/16: Another brave man, Eric Wilhelm of Instructables tries his hand at one of the “Sprint Cuts” being advertised on his site.

OhGizmo's David Ponce Reports to Having Fun with Toshiba Campaign

At OhGizmo, author David Ponce says it’s “sort of fun” participating in Toshiba’s Tech Battle Royale sponsorship:

“Each week, the question is read by the ninja from Ask A Ninja and readers get to vote on their favorite answer. I’ll tell you, it’s sort of fun to be battling it out with these guys, even if in the end it doesn’t make much difference who wins. See, whoever leads in the votes doesn’t really get anything special. Only bragging rights, I guess. But this is where I ask all y’all to help me out a little and send a couple votes my way. I’m currently 4th in the rankings, a whisper ahead of Mark Frauenfelder from BoingBoing.”

He also makes clear the terms of his relationship to Toshiba (brokered by us at FM):

“And for the record no one asked me to write this post, and I don’t get paid to write the answers. Toshiba (the sponsor) is running ads on this site (you might have seen them around) and that’s the only form of compensation in this campaign.”

It surprised me to see Fazal Magid in the comments write this:

“It looks like a reprise of the slimy Microsoft ad campaign (see link) that made waves some time ago. You would do well to disassociate yourself from FM, they have no clue what the limits of the acceptable are. That reminds me, I need to add “Federated Media” to the list of keywords to filter out in my aggregator…”

As I wrote in response to Fazal on the site: The sponsorship relationship with Toshiba is quite transparent from the start, and David’s post takes that transparency even further. The program doesn’t affect any editorial content on OhGizmo, and — as far as I can tell — doesn’t sway the editorial voice at OhGizmo. Is your objection just to the idea that authors can acknowledge advertisers on their editorial pages? Or that an author’s content can be licensed for us on a marketer’s site or advertorial project?

HP Employee Blogs About HP Voice Post Campaign

Tac Anderson at NewCommBiz called his post “Is this really advertising?” His answer:HP

“Is this really advertising? Technically yes. The better answer is that this is the way new media advertising *should* be done.

“It leverages ad dollars to bring additional value to a community that is not interruptive. I don’t know who on the HP side came up with this but I think it’s great.”

Thanks, Tac! And thanks, Jared, my FM colleague, for pointing Tac to the voice-post project!

Original story on voice post sponsorship, and a follow up piece on readers demanding them.