Once upon a time (by which we mean a few months ago), Tumblr CEO David Karp outright rejected the idea of ads. The scorn has lessened since the advent of sponsorship packages to the Tumblr Radar, but that doesn’t mean Mr. Karp has entirely come around to the inherent worthiness of advertising as a discipline.
This morning’s Internet Week keynote offered a little more insight into what he likes and what he doesn’t. To wit: None of your tacky traditional advertising, thanks. Tumblr wants “creative experiences.”
In a conversation with Internet Week founder David-Michel Davies, Mr. Karp elaborated on the kind of promotional content that doesn’t turn his stomach. As an ideal, he offered up the example of the Hunger Games promotion Capital Couture. Rather than registering hungergames.tumblr.com and slapping up the trailer, the film’s marketing team created a Panem fashion blog and invited fan submissions.
Mr. Karp liked that it wasn’t a standard-issue movie site, but rather “one of the juiciest, most interesting ways to further explore the world in a way that it was not explored in the books or not completely explored in the books,” adding that it “created a whole community of people who are contributing and creating whole communities on top of the art of that world.” So it’s part of the “mythos” of the world, rather than just a splashy campaign.
“People who really really wanted to get into the world, the people who’d read the trilogy–now they had a whole new angle to this world to explore,” said Mr. Karp. The result was also something that managed to engage further Tumblr communities, like fashion.
Of course, it’s worth noting that no matter what you call it, all of this stuff is, at the end of the day, advertising. We just usually call it “viral marketing.”