And Now, A Note From Our Sponsors

Verizon is running an interesting campaign for their new Blackberry Storm and this blog is carrying the ad banners right now (right sidebar). You can click on a link in the banner and turn the banner into a video on the new Blackberry Storm.

This is interesting to me for several reasons. First, it’s running for two days, yesterday and today, and I believe for these two days, it’s the only campaign running on this blog. Second, it’s generating a nice chunk of change to a good cause because all the ad revenue on this blog goes to charity. And third, it’s running on a blog that was openly critical of the Storm just last week. 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. And kudos to Federated Media for evangelizing conversational marketing and for putting an interesting and relevant campaign in front of this blog’s readers.

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Amit Agarwal

    Not sure why I can’t play this video in FF 3.1

  2. Peter Kim

    Hello Fred – I believe the VZ/BB Storm ads were placed by a poor contextual match, similar to other unfortunate examples – e.g. Obama banners next to an Ashley Todd story, “loan shark ads” next to a shark attack story.That, or perhaps the planners at Federated are Oscar Wilde fans.

  3. markslater

    “Kudos to Verizon for understanding that you can’t control the content your campaign runs next to. And kudos to Federated Media for evangelizing conversational marketing and for putting an interesting and relevant campaign in front of this blog’s readers”I find this very strange – how does this benefit verizon? you rightfully point out – my guess is that most people on this blog are not going to buy the storm (as a long time BB user i sure will not be) and a banner add will do absolutely nothing to change that.I fail to see how them intruding on a conversation is of any benefit to them or to those of us that wont buy the product and hate the carrier.

    1. kenberger

      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.

      1. fredwilson

        exactly. i should have been more clear about that in my post. thanks for making my point better than i could Ken. that’s conversational media!

        1. kenberger

          @Fred- I can’t get that phrase “conversational marketing” out of my head since I saw it here this a.m. 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. It worked to some extent w/ Scoble’s blog at Microsoft. And there’s the “no such thing as bad publicity argument”. I’d also make a seemingly ‘crazy’ bet that your previous scorn for this product actually results in a sale or 2.@markslater- thanks for starting this interesting branch.

  4. Sampad Swain

    Fred – 2 problems:1. Where’s the ad? Since all I can see is Intuit Quickbook & IBM’s Ad till now on the right hand column.2. Is thr any problem with my FF 3.0.4?Would be glad to help the cause though!—Sampad

    1. fredwilson

      i see the ad Sampad. maybe its a US only campaign. where are you located?

      1. Sampad Swain

        I’m based in Mumbai, India,. May be you’re right – it’s an US only campaign!—Sampad

  5. mediaeater

    I am more inclined to think it’s a smart (or stupid lucky) advert algorithm or astute media planner. Regardless of intent the bifurcation of op-ed and advertising coupled with its obvious contextual fit makes for an interesting mix.I am not aware of an easy way to tell how smart advertisements around negative editorial impact the reader but would venture to say that any positive impact at all could help the advertising planners make more savvy recommendations for placements and move closer to a clearer roll in “conversational marketing”.You being a trusted source..a blog with measured weight in the reputation area allows for that kind of brave placement if it indeed was thought out.There are many moving parts to consider in rendering such a campaign. For every person who praises the effort there will be twice as many calling for the heads if an add ran next to a story about someone hurt by the same handheld device.

  6. kenberger

    You must know you’re giving way too much credit to Verizon here !

  7. LukeH

    I think its just a good old fashioned ad blitz, plastering ads everywhere, only now more of it ends up online. Verizon is investing a bundle of cash trying to move Storms right now.And did you notice that the voice for the ads is the voice of Jim from The Office (John Krasinski)?

  8. howardlindzon

    too bad they double goosed themselves for displaying a crap product and not something like the more useful curve 🙂

  9. aarondelcohen

    Fred:Good post. I passed to people who buy the media at Verizon Wireless corporate…Who knows what good can come of it…

  10. josh guttman

    My sense is that ad buyers are more concerned with demography than semantics and the fact that this blog even mentions RIMM, Storm, Bold, Curve as much as it does is a huge plus. I would bet that neither the Verizon ad buyer nor the Federated account rep could say what opinion this blog had of any recent blackberry model. And in the whole scheme of Verizon’s online marketing spend, the traffic on AVC, while a targeted demographic, is fairly small.

  11. Jon Michael Miles

    Hey Fred,Do you really think Federated made an explicit choice to put Storm ads on your blog, or is it simply a key word relevant placement? Admittedly I do not know how ad placement technology works – but I’m thinking they don’t really know. But taking your comment at face value, and assuming that the folks up in Waterloo, ON…

    1. fredwilson

      they (federated) certainly made a conscious choice to run this campaign on this blog. it’s even possible that verizon’s agency was involved at some level, although i really don’t know about that.

      1. Jon Michael Miles

        Then your point about being a part of the conversation, even if it’s not necessarily flattering, is an excellent one.Still – I have to note – as a Macbook Pro using, Blackberry 7130 dialin’ NERD HERD lovin’ individual – the Storm is the biggest piece of poorly designed tech poop I’ve come across in years. I spent 30 mins at the downtown DC Verizon store fiddling (with high hopes) trying to get that thing to function intuitively. A few notes:1. The touch screen idea is a novelty, and is just a moving part waiting to break. When I heard about it I thought that would be cool – but when I touched it, and realized that the whole screen needs to be depressed – I was like most I’ve talked to – still thinking that individual keys would be emulated.2. Blackberry, like so many brands before it, has fallen off the brand equity wagon. The keyboard is what DEFINES the blackberry IMHO.3. In the rush to implement a touch screen, they should have kidnapped some apple product designers first. The interface is more clunky that the standard blackberry interface, and that’s saying something.4. NOW – if Blackberry returns to its brand, and realizes that until mother nature redesigns the human hand, that the keyboard will still rule in many quarters, then the application of a touch screen ABOVE a usable touch screen makes more sense to me.Blackberry should stick to what they know instead of rushing to become a part of the ill-defined grey goo that is the mobile marketplace.But I forgive Blackberry this transgression, and urge them to monitor this conversation, now that they are advertising on it, and make smart choices – like talking to folks like us before they spend a gazillion dollars to release the hopefully soon to pass Storm.

      2. Joe Lazarus

        I’m surprised that this much thought would go into the placement on Verizon’s part. I’ve bought a lot of online media in the past, though never from Federated. Typically, ads are purchased either based on audience demographics, site category, or some sort of keyword targeting. 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.

  12. RG

    My question is how was the campaign sold by Federated Media? Were they targetting “tech bloggers” as a blanket category? I think you have to consider the possibility that VZW really would prefer not to have that ad running on this blog, but has no idea that a) its even running here and/or b) that you were critical of wireless operators and specifically this device.

  13. Sierra Journal

    Thanks Fred for the shout out! A VC, like all of our content partners, was chosen to be a part of the FM family because it has great content and an amazing audience. The two go hand-in-hand. Brands choose to advertise with FM because they value honest content and conversations – such as the content being created and conversations being had right here, right now. Our advertisers are perfectly aware that not all editorial content will be flattering. Quite the contrary, they choose FM sites for their authenticity.Matthew DiPietro, Federated Media

    1. brooksjordan

      Matthew, can you give us more specifics about how this Verizon ad was placed on Fred’s blog? Was it a specific decision . . . automagic?

      1. John Schneider

        Thanks for asking Brooks. 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.John Schneider, Federated Media

        1. brooksjordan

          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.. . . and not a bad ad either, although I’m always eager to *do something,* as Federated Media is always championing, I know.

        2. fredwilson

          Yup, its like Ken said in another comment. I might not like the storm but many of the commenters came to its rescue in the comments. The very fact that we are having these discussions mean we really care about these products. No better place to advertise them in my mind

          1. markslater

            and how is that going to change my mind exactly? if you are negative the product, the conversation is annoying, if you are positive, you have already bought one – either way i would be very surprised if people on this blog could have a pre-conceived notion of the product changed – its not like its a P & G consumer product – its an important part of our daily productive lives, as such the buy decision is made in an area far beyond this blog – and the phone is crap, and any amount of conversation wont convince me to give it another how does this conversation help the brand? ok conversations about a product are a form of brand development, but is someone really actually espousing a business model around this?My guess is that the phone will sell LESS not more as a result of this ‘conversation’.

  14. andyswan

    Very cool….but, the facts remain: 1) it’s still a banner ad, which is lame and 2) it’s still not a good phone for biz

  15. rkorba

    Great post, and I’m saving for the Bold. If you wanted to really take something for good cause from Verizon and the like, a thought:A charity idea that is simple, elegant and a trifecta. To wit:I have 2000 (and counting) anytime rollover minutes, like many folks, given that the data plans (more and more use these days) are bundled with voice minutes that go unused.I have 3 assets…. Nifty idea, 2000 rollover minutes and a startup ( with much fun and orders of magnitude less impact than you. So, other than the charity urge, nothing of real value.I and many folks donate phones for use by homeless, women’s shelters, etc.With frequent flyer miles, you can donate, the airlines write off a liability, and military families and the like get free flights. Natch.Why not same with unused minutes to couple with the donated phones?You have a bully pulpit. Suppose you would pressure the Walts, Mikes, Davids and others to make noise

    1. fredwilson

      Cool ideaBut minutes aren’t transferable, are they?

      1. rkorba

        yeah, exactly the point. so the airlines let you transfer, but even better when they can extinguish the liability from the balance sheet AND get you a charitable donation AND give miles to military families and kids needing medical care and the like. Think of the marketing AT&T could do giving my rollover minutes to, say, families at Ronald McDonald house (one of my fave charities). Dunno how they carry the minutes on the balance sheet, but who cares. Good is good.

  16. Darren Herman

    My guess is that when this media plan was signed off, your post hadn’t run yet. I’m assuming that Moxie (agency) or other who ran the Verizon campaign hadn’t seen your negative post and this ran. Kudos for Moxie & Verizon for not taking this down, but keep in mind, the media plan was probably signed off at least a few weeks ago.

  17. michaeldowns

    Good conversational marketing tutorial. Not because it overviews the concepts, but because the ad, the post and the comments present a reasoned, rational discussion of a highly visible product and how it is marketed. The only sad part, so far, is that a spare few enthusiasts are left to represent the product and the Federated pub manager is representing the placement. Would have been text book had the Storm product and marketing managers engaged on these two topics.

    1. fredwilson

      I was hoping for that myself

      1. michaeldowns

        May speak to bandwidth constraints major advertisers face when engaging in social media marketing. I’m not an expert. but it seems Blackberry is half-pregnant here. They chose Federated ostensibly to market their product on major blogs, but either didn’t put systems in place to monitor response (a basic BackType account) or didn’t allocate resources to follow-up. While it probably doesn’t make sense for a product / marketing manager to weigh in, a Dell- or Zappos-like customer service response would have killed here. Further, nuggets like those contributed by John Miles above need to make their way back to product.

        1. Mike Montano

          I completely agree with you and Fred, these are great opportunities for BlackBerry to interact with their customers that they are missing out on. Your point about who should weigh in is probably part of the problem within large organizations like RIM. In a small company it’s easy to know who should get involved, but when online conversations touch product, pr, marketing, etc, things seem to break down.I used to work at RIM (on the Bold, not the Storm ;)), before I co-founded BackType — maybe it’s time I let them know what I’ve been up to.

          1. michaeldowns

            RIM needs your help. You may also consider partnering w/ the major agencies and networks like Federated to ensure BackType accounts are bundled into social media buys.Aside, while I’m sure you’ve got your hands full, let’s get AdAge, Economist and Business Week covered under BackType so I can stop poking around for old comments;)

  18. Olivier Travers

    How is this conversational marketing at all? It would be if the ad engaged criticisms you made, to acknowledge them and possibly by making counter arguments. As far as I can see, it’s the same ad they’re running elsewhere. As other readers have pointed out, it’s probably either contextually targeted (it’s just my opinion but I find ads targeted against negative content to be dumb semantics at work) or a network buy (you’d have to look at where else in the FM network these same ads are running).