FM worked with Verizon Wireless (and its agency, Moxie Interactive) to place Verizon ads promoting the BlackBerry Storm on Fred Wilson’s site, A VC, even though Fred had recently criticized the product on the site:
“In fact, that post which is critical of the Storm is still on the front page of this blog where the ad is running. And this blog has been no friend to wireless carriers and their abusive business models like demanding exclusives from device manufacturers.
“Conversational media and conversational marketing is coming of age. Marketers are understanding that you have to be part of the conversation even if it isn’t flattering about you and your products and services. And participants in conversational media are starting to recognize that marketers and their brands have a seat at the table and a role in the conversation. In this case, they are helping to fund it (sort of).
“Kudos to Verizon for understanding that you can’t control the content your campaign runs next to.”
An interesting conversation broke out among A VC readers, including BlackBerry fans that came to the brand’s defense and others who applauded Verizon for supporting the discussion.
“It could be very effective for Verizon. This blog hits a bullseye on the product’s target market. Plenty of people will disagree w/ Fred’s view on the Storm (I do, fairly strongly!) And there’s a LOT of people who feel married to Verizon or can’t/won’t use AT&T or T-Mo (and thus iPhone, G1 etc) and will now choose the Storm despite reservations…. I am convinced that there is TONS of potential here. People are sick and tired of all these years of ads making grandiose, inherently biased claims for their products. ‘Marketing’ as it’s done in the US has become equated w/ mistrust. I’d bet that a company’s active endorsement of a balanced discussion, pro and con, about a product will cause the public to listen rather than tune out.”
“I’d be impressed if people from Verizon made this decision based on the content & context of specific posts on your blog as opposed to simply picking your site from some broad technology category.”
And this, from my FM colleague John Schneider:
“Yes, this was a conscious, and human, decision that was made. With fewer than 200 properties, FM always handpicks the best fitting sites — there are no fancy algorithms. In Fred’s case, he has an engaged and influential audience that has strong opinions on new technologies and product offerings. Ultimately, it’s Fred’s audience we are trying to reach. They clearly respect his opinions, but form their own as shown here in this comment thread.”
“Well, I think it’s brilliant that you did because of the tension created by Fred’s recent post about the BlackBerry Storm. There’s hope for advertising.”
Hope for advertising?! I’m welling up over here!
Congrats to the teams at Verizon Wireless and Moxie Interactive. And thanks, John Schneider, for putting this program together, and Fred, for MC’ing the conversation.