Tumblr’s Advertising Problem

Recently,  Tumblr had gone into overdrive when it came to testing out various forms of advertising. Their most recent endeavor looked a little something like this (imagine a random ad in the middle of it):


There was nothing user-friendly about the ad. While these were running, I came across a blog post that touched right on this issue, and I ended up addressing it, both as a tumblr user and as a social media expert. I thought I’d share that little exchange with you. Take a look!

name ommitted:

i wonder if companies that advertise on tumblr realize that i am 300% less likely to buy their product specifically because i saw it advertised on tumblr and i am a creature of spite


I am a social media marketing expert for a living, and I can also 300% confirm this is true.

name ommitted:

You should elaborate more on that! Does the spite really influence people’s purchasing habits? I’ve always wondered whether we were tricking ourselves into thinking adverts don’t have their intended effect on us.


Spite absolutely can have an affect on purchasing habits. It’s not that we think we’re ‘above it’ – well, actually, we do, but that’s not what influences whether we’ll purchase something based on an ad on a site like tumblr. It’s invasive advertising that’s the issue. For example, on places like Facebook, ad integration is set up to look the same as a regular Facebook link post. We may not notice it right away, but it will more than likely stick in our subconscious. We’re not assaulted by it.

That’s not what’s happening here. Yahoo is running test advertising platforms to determine what users on tumblr will respond to the best. In case you haven’t noticed, there have been several versions of ads running across here recently, with increased turnover in regards to ads testing. This is tumblr and yahoo working to determine what we’ll respond to.

The problem they’re facing is that, unlike platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where each post looks the same as the next post, tumblr posts have an almost infinite variety, due to the fact that this is essentially supposed to be the back end dashboard to our own completely customizable blogs/websites.

(Truthfully, we probably were never meant to spend so much time on the back end, but that’s what tumblr has evolved into.)

So what that means is tumblr has a problem in that they need to get ads to us that people will respond to, and they need to do it in such a way that’s not assaulting to the end user (us). Yet, advertisers don’t want to have to create hyper-customized ads that will flow better on a platform like this. They want tumblr to create a template that they can fill in with their ad specs, and be done with it (we ad/marketing people are just as fucking lazy as everyone else).

So, what this ends up meaning for us is lots of ads we hate, and ads we won’t respond to, because we want tumblr to stay streamlined the way we like (see: all hate spewed at every update ever), and that can’t happen if yahoo wants to make money off of their gagillion-dollar deal. They will keep testing ad variations on us to figure out what works, which none of them will because every ad they integrate is seen as an ‘interruption’ by us. Oh, and it doesn’t help that tumblr users are some of the most viscous people in social media. You give us an ad that gets in our way, and we’ll tear you four new assholes.

tl;dr Yahoo wants to make money off of us with ads that don’t work because the advertising industry is too lazy to make ones that will. And we’re the ones who suffer for it.


Tumblr has some work head of itself if it wants to tap into the advertising market on their site. I’m interested to see what they come up with next!

Posted by Stephanie Cole

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