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Rocketboom Debuts its Ad

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Funny, isn’t it, that the blogosphere was abuzz when Rocketboom auctioned an ad, but barely a whisper was heard yesterday when the ad debuted at the end of the normal Monday segment.

More attention should be paid.

This whole social computing phenomenon is gradually, glacially changing the face of communications, covering the spectrum of advertising, marketing, and public relations, along with all their sub-classes (like investor relations and employee communications). Steve Rubel reported yesterday on a Forrester report on social computing that reached this conclusion:

To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists.

It’s a great quote, one I’m sure will be cited repeatedly for many months. Yet whenever I sit down to watch television (I just can’t stop watching “24″), I still have to fast-forward through those 30-second spots, the death of which has been (prematurely) proclaimed by so many. (Thank God for TiVo.) Change comes slowly to entrenched institutions, especially when so many different players perpetuate traditional strategies even though their effectiveness may be eroding faster than Santa Monica hillsides during a monsoon. Clients, agencies, producers, media brokers and buyers and television and radio stations represent an infrastructure that won’t easily abandon its bread-and-butter product. It would be like asking an automobile supply chain to suddenly stop making cars and shift to producing Segways.

But anybody involved in communication should watch the first ad on Rocketboom and consider the model the daily newslike video blog has introduced. In case you missed the story-or have forgotten-a company called TRM won the auction. TRM recruits people to sell its ATMs into retail outlets. Part of the deal was that Rocketboom would create the commercials, which would run at the conclusion of each daily episode for a week.

The Rocketboom team has created an episodic ad campaign featuring host Amanda Congdon in a comic strip-like series. As described in We are the Media, a blog dedicated to the “vlogosphere” (dear God, not another osphere):

Because they are not limited to television’s thirty seconds, they have added subtlety and intruigue and a great narrative story to the advertisements that will make Rocketboom subscribers sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the next days advertisement.

Equally important is that the ad fits seamlessly with the whole Rocketboom ethos. Regular viewers of Rocketboom will not skip the ad because the ad is part of Rocketboom, not an irrelevant interruption. For $40,000, TRM gets about 100,000 people paying close attention to the ad and, in some cases, even watching it multiple times to pick up on subtle elements that you just won’t catch from a single viewing.

As “We are the Media’s” Bre Pettis points out, the folks at Rocketboom can report with some degree of accuracy how many times the ad has been downloaded. The real test, of course, will be in the number of viewers who become sales agents for TRM. But whether or not TRM meets its goals with the ads (you have to figure these ads would produce better results for a more mainstream product or service), the campaign crystallizes the potential for advertising in the social computing era. The only question is how long it will take for those clients locked into the mainstream advertising world to figure it out.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

Rocketboom Debuts its Ad
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