New ads called Hosted Conversations link to real-time brand buzz

If you are a brand steward and follow the online buzz about your product, you may have wished for a way to swing your computer screen around and show the world the great things users are saying about your brand.

It’s the online equivalent of word-of-mouth. When you hear something good, you want to hear these endorsements shouted from the rooftops. Well, the PR group Edelman, in collaboration with RSS distributor Newsgator, have found a way to do just that.

Edelman’s clients can now order up ad units that are essentially “widgets” displaying headlines linked to user-generated content (UGC) about a brand. You’ve heard of testimonial ads. These are the dynamic equivalent of them. And because they carry the credibility of UGC, I predict Hosted Conversations will be extremely successful if done correctly.

According to this piece on the recently unveiled Hosted Conversations:

The NewsGator-powered product tracks media relating to pre-specified subjects, extracting nuggets from blog posts, mainstream media, and video and photo sites. The PR firm will pluck the highest quality content from those sources based on criteria set by its clients; the choice bits will then feed dynamically into the chosen advertiser-branded units. We’re determining the “memes in conversation, who’s saying the most interesting stuff,” said Rick Murray of Edelman.

What do I mean by executing these ads correctly? I would say they would be doing the brand a favor by sprinkling the glowing reviews with some dissenting opinions. Although they would have no control over these criticizing posts, they Edelman would be able to provide their side of the story in comments associated with the piece.

Although these folks have stumbled publicly lately, I suspect that if anyone can pull of this feat they can. For example, read Rick Murray’s quick response to this criticism of the very concept of the new ad unit. When you browse down past the blogger’s post, the very first comment you’ll see is by the owner of the brand in question. And a very tactful response it is. Well played, Rick!

2 Replies to “New ads called Hosted Conversations link to real-time brand buzz”

  1. Just read through the post and Rick Murray’s response.

    Even if they pull things off blogs and news feeds, it sure sounds like they are planning to use mini-testimonials for client endorsements.

    I bet the selected reviews really glow and the few and far between dissenting opinions are only luke warm.

    It still sounds contrived to me and needs more disclosure.

  2. Thanks, Chris —

    I hope it won’t be too contrived, because there is definitely a way to do this and have it not be, IMHO.

    The responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the PR firm to advise the client. They need to urge the client to set a very loose filter on what is served up. If a reputable site or blogger has a problem with the product that is more a matter of taste than performance, it should definitely stay in the mix.

    I’m thinking of movie reviews. (I often do. I’m a big film buff.) I heard and read many reviews saying that Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette was not worth seeing. They said it was slow-moving, and that little happened in it (at least, until the end, when she and her royal family got the bad haircuts).

    Then I heard other reviews, from just a few others, who praised it. And I realized that the praise mentioned the same qualities that the other reviewers had listed, but this time as a testament to the director’s abilities to take her time and observe character quietly and artfully.

    I wound up disregarding the bad reviews and had a wonderful film experience.

    If I had links to both temperatures of reviews from this type of “review widget,” it would have saved me a lot of research time. And I would have reached the same conclusion and plunked down my eight bucks.

    Sorry for the long response, and of course you’re right to be concerned.

    I just know that word-of-mouth advertising, which in the online world is mostly UGC, is definitely the most important marketing tool in this new Web 2.0 era. This ad unit is laudable for its attempt to capture the lightning in a bottle.

    I’m essentially an optimist. Maybe I’m just hoping it will be a success.

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