Tumblr's Ad Strategy: We Want the Guys Who Make Super Bowl Ads

Former Staff Writer
2 min read

David Karp wants to elevate Tumblr’s cachet as a publisher of digital ads. 

Today’s online advertising landscape, Tumblr's founder said in an interview with the Financial Times, is too much of a numbers game. It is too narrowly targeted with ads based on prior product searches and other scientific stats as opposed to sweeping a broader reach with a more aspirational approach, he argues.

For Tumblr, Karp ultimately envisions ads that are on par with the great television and print campaigns of yore, which inspired people to become customers rather than steered a single purchase. 

Related: Saatchi & Saatchi CEO: The Best Ads Make You Laugh, Cry or Think

“The general message to big brands and agencies from Silicon Valley and all the digital networks is leave the creative people at home, show up with the data scientists,” he said. “We want them to show up with the guys putting together the Super Bowl ads.”

Karp said that such a strategy could help Tumblr defeat chief adversaries like Facebook and Twitter, where creative ads aren’t such a natural fit. On Tumblr, he explained, users are primarily consuming content as opposed to networking, and therefore ads don’t disrupt a kind of personal flow.

Contrary to popular belief, Tumblr is also a lot more than just silly memes and weighty quotables, Karp says. More than half of its users are over 34 and 60 percent of its business comes from outside the U.S.

Related: The Iconic Pepsi Ad That Made Coke Go Ballistic

And while Yahoo’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Karp’s startup has recently come under fire by activist investor Starboard Value, Karp, for his part, considers it an honor to work alongside Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer. 

“I’m in such a privileged position to work with someone who has the experience at scale that she has,” he said.

Related: In Hilarious Video, Ad Agency Thanks Employees by Letting Them Do This...For, Like, a Whole Minute

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