Jenene has an enviable track record as an internet entrepreneur.
What made you pick the internet
The first part was to be young enough – when I first went into this space I was a teen, it was a natural part of where things were going. For years I’ve used the descriptor if you’re on the ski field and you see kids fly past at 100km an hour and you’re just trying to stay upright.
When you’re young enough you don’t worry about falling over and that applies to business too.
I have a natural gut instinct around consumers, and I’m passionately curious about this space. I spend a lot of time thinking about it.
Tell us about NZ Girl
We launched in 1999 there was nothing else in that space – there were corporates dallying with the idea of corporate websites, Google was in its first year and social media hadn’t happened. We were taking advertising orders by fax. That meant we got to see the full evolution of everything. We led the pack to say where it was going – we didn’t know better we just gave it a go.
We found an audience who were interested in the space naturally, alongside that the business attracted people who needed to speak to that audience and used us as their guide to use the internet to talk to them.
I developed other businesses to do research, strategy and guidance too off the back of that.
We started as an online magazine and it’s now a social mag with the content written by the audience, curated by us and it’s now a bloggers club. We manage 400 bloggers and offer content marketing services through that.
What do you think about Native advertising?
It’s been an interesting evolution – the digital advertising world is in a worse state now that 5 years ago and I credit that to the agencies getting involved. We had direct relations with the clients and created cool platforms. The agencies commoditised it and it became very CPM driven and more recently CPC driven and that bastardised the whole offering and the whole platform. It’s hard for publishers to give advertisers the environment to get relationships with consumers when they’re trying to rely on click throughs immediately at a certain $ value.
We said it’s madness to use CPM as a measure of success for a campaign and we have always been about integration and it hasn’t been embraced by agencies because it’s too hard for them to do.
Integration must be creatively led – e.g. J&J have new skincare product – they tell us who its aimed at and we do research into the audience and what they think about it, we recommend angles, and we come up with the creative concepts of ways to talk about it which might be editorial, blogger content, advertorial, competitions, sampling, ways to purchase. All sorts of things. For Gilette we chucked 2 tonnes of sand and put on a beach volleyball contest… it’s a 360 experiential view.
it’s mostly technically led and on the site. We have done apps, games, treasure hunts.
What’s the future for online advertising and agencies?
The recession didn’t help but if you look at the very large agencies – their model is being able to provide a better price than everyone else- they have to cut deals and so they cut out people and will only work with a certain number of suppliers or publishers. They are metric-driven and pit people against each other.
We were being missed out on schedules for brands we’ve worked with for a decade and it was because our CPM wasn’t low enough. We lost out to sites with no integration or technology. This was madness. So we said “stuff it”. We no longer charge for display advertising – we are not prepared to be measured by a CPM metric.
If you do content marketing with us, integrated campaigns with us and we give the display advertising for free.
We do still deal with agencies, Rochelle has had to turn round and tell them that that’s not how we work. We refuse to be measured in this way and here are our arguments and we get left off the schedule because of this. We need to get brands to the other side of this – to get measures – that’s not how consumers buy they build relationships and want recommendations.
The female consumer is driven by what others tell her about how to get things and where to find them. It doesn’t work in a metric driven way. They are such magpies – so excited about the next big thing e.g. Facebook – they invested in it because it’s free, organic reach is stuffed and now they have to pay for sponsored and promoted posts. This even more supports the theory that you need others talking about your brand.
How can brands take advantage of this?
To be successful in this landscape, you need to introduce people naturally to your brand and they can easily talk about it if they want to do so. The model in bloggers club is subscription driven – brands pay us to work out how to create conversation – bloggers are paid by us but it’s not specifically by the brand. This is the Church and State separation that’s required.
We get a variety of bloggers – nutrition and fitness, parenting and all sorts of stuff, art and drawing, sketch bloggers too. It’s really cool. UGC was never going to go away – it gives folks a reason to continuously get involved and social allows them to spread the voice.
Commericalising it gives problems to some people – great content but no ida of audience development. And others who can’t make their content look professional enough to make it marketable. We have a template-driven format that they can use. So clients see what’s being written about them and they can then take it and share across their networks. This allows the individual to have a voice – this is never going to go away now that we’ve found our voices.