At Ad:tech London last week, I attended a couple of talks that gave me a new perspective to the industry. One was the talk by the guys from Bebo, who spoke about how to successfully promote a brand on social networks. Now I’m not a user of Bebo, so I found it interesting that a social network like them has executed on advertising in a completely different way to Facebook. The main mode of advertising on Bebo is not so much in-your-face (boxed ads that say ‘buy this’, for example) as through the sponsorship of an idea that appeals to teens and young people. Bebo is the only social network that actually runs mini-reality-shows themselves. For one of these, called The Gap Year, a number of brands came in to give the opportunity to 6 young people to take six months off travelling around the world, all expenses paid. Their travails became the reality show, telecast on Bebo only. It wasn’t an amateur show either – the people who made Big Brother are the ones who helmed this. I think this is an interesting way of reaching out to their huge user base. It reminded me of Skype’s Nomad programme though – except for the fact that the Gap Year initiative was on Bebo and the Skype Nomad thing was primarily publicized through a blog. A social network has a more captive user base than a blog, so from a publicity point of view, the Bebo initiative makes more sense.
Other examples of brand presence on Bebo are Trident, who are holding the ‘Mess with your head’ competition, and Fanta – those are less exciting as they are regular competitions.
The other interesting seminar I got to listen to was about the influence of widgets at Chinwag’s Micro Media Maze. The panel – Miles Davis, SVP European Advertising Sales at Last.fm, Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab (and a pretty smart guy – check out his blog Bubblegeneration), Nick Halstead, CEO and Founder of fav.or.it, and Steve Bowbrick, internet manager and entrepreneur, all had a strong point of view on the subject. The key takeaway for me was the fact that widgets need to be open-source, like the ones that can be created at build.last.fm, and they should add value to the user. Umair Haque especially reinforced this point by saying that widgets impose a cost on the user (a time cost, I assumed), and that contrary to the system of old where people consumed ads through a one-way channel, nowadays media has a responsibility to add value to consumers as most communication originates from the consumers themselves. An interesting recommendation that came out of the talk was the potential for something like an eBay-last.fm mashup widget. Think about it. Interesting, isn’t it?