Posted March 5, 2013 5:25 pm by with 1 comment

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Selling ads is often equated with “selling out” which can be a big problem for sites that built their reputation on being hip and out-of-the-box.

Tumblr is one of these sites. Essentially, it’s a free blogging tool but it’s developed its own artistic personality. It leans heavily on graphics and moving GIFS. Humor, art and pop culture routinely collide and it’s primarily populated by younger users who use it both as a scrapbook of minutia and a place for social commentary.


Tumblr is unique and the site’s rise in popularity has been impressive. Says Forbes:

Tumblr’s tens of millions of registered users create 120,000 new blogs every day, for a total of 86 million and counting, which drive some 18 billion page views per month.

Sounds good until you get to this:

The company finished 2012 with $13 million in revenue; the hope in this “leap” year is that it’ll get to $100 million.

How will they get there? Partially, by selling ads – but this is Tumblr, so they won’t be selling ads the way Google and Facebook sell ads. What they’re offering is more visibility by selling promoted post slots on both the website and coming soon. . .on mobile.

Head of Sales, Lee Brown told AdAge:

“We’re not bringing them a template or format to complete. “We’re giving them a canvas. That takes a lot of time and a lot of thought. . . .Marketers have become accustomed to buying scale as opposed to earning it. We’re not really selling ads, we’re promoting their content.”

B0029P 0034I like this approach. It fits in well with the move we’re making toward more interactive advertising on mobile phones and tablets. Simply slapped a branded banner ad at the top of the news feed won’t do. But imagine branded artwork Andy Warhol soup can style. And suppose the person viewing the ad can recolor the page or move the pieces around to create their own page. Then we give them the ability to share their newly created work of art. That’s brand recognition at its finest.

The up and downside of Tumblr’s promoted posts program is that it will take more time and effort to create. Marketers will need to come up with fresh ideas and they’ll have to keep implementing them on a regular basis. It’s like managing a Facebook page on steroids.

Coca Cola is making it work with their Happiness is. . . Tumblr.

Dark Rye is a Tumblr devoted to raw creativity and the simple life. It’s owned by Whole Foods.

Sephora created a vibrant, edgy magazine about the glories of make-up.

Every post is deceivingly simple. Huge photos, small amount of text, bold statements. That’s what works on Tumblr.

But can they turn that into $100 million dollars in revenue? I hope so, because I like to see creativity get rewarded, but how will Tumblr’s loyal users feel about sharing the space with advertising of any kind? It could be that a financial win will cause Tumblr to lose its hold over the artistic bohemians who currently rule the tool.