Samsung’s NOTCOT sponsorship is a great example of how a company can go beyond the banner to integrate itself into the uniqueness of a blog and speak directly to that blog’s audience through custom content. It also shows how the continued transition of ad dollars from traditional media into online media will fund new opportunities for advertisers to reach their online audience in new ways as blogs capitalize on the customizability of their medium.
The Samsung Go sponsorship includes a special section in NOTCOT called the Netbook Resource Center, which covers netbook news and accessories (they call it ‘fresh mobile lifestyle content’) and lives inside of a branded wrapper featuring images of the Samsung netbook done in the traditional NOTCOT style. There’s also a traditional banner that leads each post, and a rich media banner at the end of each post that’s co-sponsored by CNET, and lets readers see reviews, change color options, view the netbook from different angles, and compare prices.
(Tip for Samsung: If you’re going to feature the CNET Editor Rating in your banner, make sure you actually give CNET a netbook to rate.) Lastly, posts written ‘out in the wild’ on the Samsung netbook receive a special banner style tag that’s appended to the lead image.
The result is an integration that lets the blogger keep control over the content, allowing her to continue to make the content that created her audience in the first place, while Samsung can wrap it in advertising that goes well beyond the traditional banner and works to become a part of the overall experience.
While the POPURLS sponsorship allowed UPS to brand business news without paying any writers for the privilege, the NOTCOT sponsorship is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and allows Samsung to speak directly to their target audience by paying a writer to create an entire section of specialized content dedicated to related news. The end result is that Samsung has more control over the message, though that control must be balanced with the idea that blog writers know what will resonate with their readers, and should usually just be left alone with a minimal amount of guidance.
In addition to NOTCOT, Samsung also sponsored Uncrate and TrendHunter, which highlights another interesting aspect of this campaign: The difference in integration between the three. While NOTCOT created an entire section dedicated to netbook posts, and redesigned the blog’s theme to includes the Samsung Go, Uncrate and TrendHunter have just appended the leading and trailing banners to their netbook posts and placed the content aggregating banner into the sidebar, giving their sponsorships a much more traditional feel. As blogs continue to evolve and take over the role that traditional media used to serve in the consumer’s consumption of media however, I expect more sites to go the route that NOTCOT has pioneered, offering advertisers a much more customizable and comprehensive option for integrating a brand and its products into the overall experience.
While this was obviously a one-off campaign that required a lot of planning and integration, it’s not hard to imagine how blogs and advertisers can use this as an example of how to think outside the banner and reach their intended audience without feeling like the brand is being forced upon them. However, the key will be to avoid sponsorships that feel like the blogger was bought and paid for, and work to create sponsorships that feel like a natural extension of the content that the sponsored blog would cover anyways.
- Sponsorship highlights the brand in a natural, non-intrusive way that’s specific to the blog being sponsored.
- Innovative placements cut through a viewer’s ad blindness.
- Content doesn’t feel forced, and integration is a natural extension of the blog’s typical subject matter.
- Expensive one-off requires a lot of planning and setup, and would be difficult to roll out on a large scale.
- Consumers are wary of sponsored content, which can affect their opinion of any review.
- Brands work closely with blogs to integrate themselves into the experience, going beyond just a banner ad or sponsored post, and becoming a much larger part of the new digital media.