I recently received an email from Juliana Stein who is the Communications Manager of Oceana informing me that I could now support the not-for-profit by having Oceana ads on my site. The email had a link to all of the ad options and the code I needed to insert the ad. That started me thinking. What is the one thing that makes a website seem like a “real” site? Yep. Sad to say, but it’s advertising.

Chinese Horse

Now with that said, advertising also has the ability to ruin the experience of a site. When CNN recently went with a Web 2.0 look, it inadvertently made some of the ads look even more obnoxious by comparison. The refined design in the background while a gyrating silhouette of a man, somehow enticing you to refinance your mortgage made one feel confused.

It then occurred to me that I would like to have advertising on my site and yet I wanted complete control over the ads that were displayed. That is to say that I did not want to block ads that I don’t like but more provide ads for brands that I do like such as Ducati, Anthony Bourdain, Audi, etc. I downloaded Openads and started to create ads that would fit immediately above the accordion menu to the right. Not sure if I’m going to put them there or in my posts.

This entire exercise started me thinking of advertising as a form of self expression and the potential in regards to social networks. This form of informal recommendation has been going on for many years in what we wear, what we drive, where we eat, etc. Only recently have our personas been extended to the online world through networks such as Facebook and MySpace. It is easy to imagine the latest Apple advertisement featured on someone’s MySpace page.

As I started to think this through, I wondered if anyone else had come to the same conclusion. Much to my liking I found a post by Jason Rubenstein discussing advertising as self-expression. Good post with little in the way of conclusions. Still pretty early to make any real conclusions on this type of methodology and yet I think it is safe to say that much like blogging, this could increase the power of the peer-based economy. It also means that products and services must be inherently viral. The success of the brand is now more than ever dependent upon the strength of the offering. (The movie Snakes on a Plane had a tremendous amount of viral hype and yet the movie was a complete disappointment.) It is easy to imagine branding kits created for the purpose of allowing customers to create mash-ups or remixes. This type of collaboration with brands without the focus on advertising occurs on services such as Brightcove’s Aftermix.

Another thing to consider is the impact of Generation Y on this potential methodology of advertising. According to Jeff VanKooten of The Center for Generational Studies, Generation Y shows a tremendous allegiance to brands . (And why not, there little brothers and sisters have the “brand names” as well!) Jeff also indicated that his book entitled Understanding Different Generations is a good source for information on Generation Y, X and others . This book is geared towards educators but the information can (and should) be applied to marketing.

The impact of this type of advertising will become clear only if it embraced by marketers. (Increasingly marketers are called to develop social network strategies along with SEO/SEM strategies.)

I for one, am starting now. Please, enjoy the advertisement below.

Oceana: Protecting the World's Oceans