Blogs are inconsistent with marketing…?

I was rather surprised to see this as a heading to a post describing my talk at the IAA Interactive European Forum last Thursday. This is what Jon Lund thinks I believe:

Is there money in blogs? Not in the advertising sense! That was the message from Adriana Cronin-Lukas, CEO at The Big Blog Company. To her, the blogosphere is a place for conversations – and a sphere where commercial messages are not really wellcome.


While agreeing complety with Adriana that corporate blogs gives great opportuinies for establishing a conversation with customers, and poses great threats as well if you havn’t grasped the basic idea, I’m not really comfortable with the “this is business and this is personal conversation” thing, that seems to run underneath Adrianas presentation.

Hm, I can attest that this is not my message. I’d like to turn tables on this interpretation of my argument. Jon’s distinction between business and personal conversation is precisely the kind of false dichotomy that I am fighting. As far as I am concerned that there should be no ‘commercial messages’ in the world where the eyeball can turn them off and even talk back the ‘messages’ are intrusive and annoying. Markets are conversations.

So blogs are ideal for marketing, but the kind that appears to leave the advertising and marketing industry out of the loop. This is because they are the one who perpetuate the distinction between ‘personal’ and ‘commercial’, both concepts needed a closer examination anyway. Very few of the blogs I read for my work are personal, in fact, I can’t think of any really. But all of them have a human authentic voice, simply because they are written by a human being not trying to be a brand or a commercial message. There is a distinction between human, personal and intimate and you can have a formal interaction with a human being, without the edifice of a commercial ‘constructed’ identity. None of this is new, again Cluetrain Manifesto has made this point ad nauseam.

As for advertising on blogs, I never said that this should not be done. True, I do not like it but at the same time I do not begrudge the revenue bloggers who attract large audiences can get from the eyeballs. Who am I to tell them how to interact with their audience?! What I usually point out though, is that ads are a channel format, designed to be produced as some content, packaged and then pushed through a pipeline directed at the appropriate demographic of eyeballs. Blogs are a network format, the content is not finished or packaged and they are connected creatures that distribute information not via pipelines and channels but via many-to-many and one-to-one overlapping networks. So I merely point out the clash and try to give a hint to advertisers that perhaps the best way to approach the blogosphere is not to litter it with the blog equivalent of banner ads.

One thing I noticed about the advertising and marketing industry is the sense of detachment on their part from the ‘consumer’. (I have started to use the word ‘audience’ where they talk about ‘consumers’ to try to undermine this but it’s a long slog.) Hence the use of the word consumer-generate media – it seems that as long as it’s got the ‘consumer’ bit in it, it can be categories and therefore it’s not threatening. I am remined of one of my favourite quotes.

That’s the big thing for me with advertising. There’s something really creepy – in a dirty trenchcoat and mismatched socks way – about people who are willing to expertly manipulate others, but not come talk to them as though they were human.

The recent Cillit Bang affair certainly confirms that. My message to the audience at IAA event was that there is a way forward but they have to respect the audience, the medium and the etiquette. Just like with any social interaction that you participate in.