Advertisers Seek Safe Havens on User Sites

NEW YORK User-generated content destinations will need to create safe areas to overcome the qualms of wary brand advertisers, according to ad executives.

The sharp growth of user-generated content destinations in the past year has not been accompanied by equal advertiser demand, mostly because of the risks of brands associating with unsavory or inappropriate content. But advertisers cannot ignore MySpace’s more than 100 million users, said John Trimble, svp of branded sales at Fox Interactive Media.

“That seems to be where this elusive 18-34-year-old consumer is consuming,” he said during a panel discussing the rise of consumer-generated content at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Mixx Conference.

To overcome reluctance, MySpace has created several content channels, on topics from sports to books to movies, which assures brands they will not appear adjacent to racy MySpace profiles. It also sells placements on entry pages, where users tinker with their profiles.

Other user-created destinations are taking similar approaches to reassure wary advertisers. Rob Bennett, general manager of MSN’s entertainment and video services, pointed to the approach it took with Spaces, Microsoft’s blogging service. Rather than place banner ads on user-created pages, it struck a deal with Volvo to build a “What’s Your Story?” section that highlights interesting Spaces.

Not all user-generated content is created equally, according to Simon Assad, co-CEO of, an entertainment site that relies on users for most of its content. In Heavy’s case, it screens all content before it is posted, choosing only the best, which has attracted advertisers like Burger King, Old Spice and Sony PlayStation. Pure user content, however, is likely to only attract direct-response advertisers not concerned by where their ads appear, he said.