Volvo buys safety, gets dreck
Wednesday, April 13th, 2005
There’s been some huffing about Volvo’s purchase of ad space atop Microsoft’s “Spaces” blogging environment.
In an article titled “MSN Spaces/Volvo Deal Shows Big Blog Advertisers Crave Safety” in Webpronews
Steve Rubel wrote that a big brand “craves safety, as the Wall Street Journal noted last month. They are skittish about advertising on blogs. As a result, they will gravitate towards teaming with the larger players when it comes to experimenting with the medium.”
(In fact, only one ad executive in the WSJ’s article mentioned safety as an issue and the only ad “pulled” from a blog so far by an advertiser was running on a property of one of the “safe” corporate blog publishers Rubel highlights.)
Whatever. Volvo is getting a raw deal.
As Steve Hall of Adrants notes that most of Spaces blogs are “empty, useless, pointless weblogs.” “A quick review of weblogs listed as recently updated on MSN Spaces revealed few, if any, containing more than a post or two. Many simply state, ‘There are no entries in this blog.'” (Steve wrote asking what I thought of the deal — my reply to him seeded this post.)
To expand on Steve’s point, Volvo is, at best, paying to appear above MSNSpaces bloggers who are writing about random stuff, blogospheric noise. Spaces bloggers are newbies on the fringes of the blogosphere. Microsoft may well have promised Volvo 100 million page impressions a month, but these are impression seen by nobody — or more exactly “nobodies” — people who are viewed as influentials only by their moms and ex-girlfriends.
Sure Volvo’s brand is all about “safety” and Volvo may have felt safer buying blog advertising from Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft Spaces appears to censor profanity from blog titles and URLs, as Boingboing documented.
All sponsored exclusively by Volvo. You go Volvo!
If you are a brand manager craving safety and premium audiences, wouldn’t you rather sponsor name-brand bloggers like Markos Moulitsas, Glenn Reynolds, Dave Winer, Jeralyn Merrit, Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Wil Wheaton, Jessa Crispin, Duncan Black, David Gutowski, Hugh Hewitt, Matt Haughey, John Sickles, Daniel Drezner, Howard Bashman… and hundreds more revered bloggers devoting themselves to themes like law or politics or music or religion or baseball? You can get ’em all here.
Why advertise on the blogs of the anonymous once-a-month-bloggers when you can associate your brand (probably at much lower cost!) with intellectual stars, folks who have national reputations in their respective fields and who are hubs for rabidly loyal communities? And why inrich Bill Gates’ another 0.0000000027% when you can put money directly into a smart blogger’s pocket?
Blogging is the ultimate meritocracy and the name brand of Microsoft (or any other traditional publisher) is no guarantee of quality or safety. On the contrary, corporate umbrellas are increasingly havens for publishing mediocrity. Rushing to be trendy, Volvo has bought the wrong end of blogging and ignored the only name brands that mean anything: the bloggers’.
(Update: as a humorous coda, I drive a 1992 Volvo 240 wagon and my colleague Anthony drives a ’95 Volvo 940, pictured partially below: