Brands Are Giving Precious Ad Real Estate to Tumblr

Like Facebook a few years ago

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Brands are starting to plug Tumblr into paid ads, just like they did with Facebook a few years ago.

In what could be an industry first, Champs Sports may put its Tumblr address in its TV buys during this month’s National Basketball Association’s playoffs. The sports gear outfitter sees the possible move as the next step in using the social blogging site to target high school male athletes; it’s also planning to put Tumblr in digital ads for the first time in the coming weeks.

“So when you see an ad on, for example, you’ll see an easy way to access Tumblr,” said Scott Burton, director of brand marketing for Champs Sports.

Similar examples are bubbling to the surface. New York commuters are noticing stylistic Cole Haan ads inside subway cars with the brand’s Tumblr address and little else—not even the brand’s proprietary URL or a Facebook mention. Calvin Klein stuck a button for the social site on its display ads this spring. And New York events marketer 92Y included its Tumblr address in its summer catalog for the first time.

“Tumblr is great for giving more background story and building awareness not just for an upcoming event, but also other projects,” said Howard Levine, a digital director at 92Y. “We just had Molly Ringwald tweet about something we did on Tumblr. You never know who might pick up your story.”

General Electric has also jumped on the trend, making Tumblr a key destination for its huge tech-minded, content-marketing ambitions with agency partner Group SJR. When asked if Tumblr could have a prominent place in campaign creative, GE’s digital marketing manager, Katrina Craigwell, said, “It’s something we are open to. I think it’s a great direction.”

Of course, there’s data behind these directions. Y Combinator partner Garry Tan made waves last winter when he released a study finding that among 13-to-25-year-olds, 59 percent regularly use Tumblr versus 54 percent regularly using Facebook.

According to comScore, Tumblr drew 37 million unique desktop and mobile visitors in March, up roughly 30 percent over the year-ago period. Tumblr users post memes, GIFs, videos and other content that they discover online or fashion themselves.

Last week, Tumblr announced a mobile ads product (Facebook, for its part, said its popular Instagram mobile app wasn’t ready for paid promos). Erin Dooley, digital content manager at happylucky, which runs Adidas Neo’s social media, predicted youth-focused marketers would take to Tumblr’s mobile ads. “If [young people] are not using a smartphone, they are using an iPad,” Dooley said. And brands are tumbling toward them.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.