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Q&A: Zoozoom, Webby-Landing ‘Online Glossy’

Anyone who’s paged through the September issue of a fashion mag and claimed they aren’t reading partly for the resplendent double-page ads is yanking your chain — who wouldn’t? Seldom is content and advertising on such even footing as when the major print glossies strive to sway the hearts and minds of fashion consumers with their annual September opus. But how to replicate the experience online? Better yet, how to maximize the year-round opportunity the Web presents? ‘Online glossy’ and two-time Webby winner may have the answer (hint: ‘you’ and your user-generated content have little to do with it). We put some questions to Zoozoom CEO Mike Hartley CEO and publisher David McIntyre, who filled us in via email.
What about Zoozoom’s offerings were most integral to its recent Webby win?
We think it must be the unique combination of creative, professional content and ads, the approach to interactivity and format that ZOOZOOM embodies. We call it an ‘online glossy.’
What did it take for ZOOZOOM to make it onto the radar of key fashion advertisers?
Consistently delivering quality content year on year has given us a platform to work with fashion brands online. Our ad unit also speaks fashion’s language. Although even the most luxurious of brands have sucked air when we tell them our CPM, on closer inspection our long-term value is apparent. But it’s still a work in progress. Fashion in many respects is very conservative and seemingly old-fashioned. Some brands aren’t however — Chanel, NET-A-PORTER.COM, Neiman Marcus, Diesel and others. We’ve developed relationships with these brands over a number of years, we’ve been persistent, we’ve worked hard and whilst trying to be respectful, we’ve sometimes had to be cheeky. Also, one of the advantages of producing our own editorial content is that we’re out there; we’re in the showrooms, talking with the designers. If we were a blog that regurgitated press releases, we’d have no real contacts within our industry. Our video interviews with designers and Fashion Week coverage are another way we interface. These are just a few of the ways we’ve been able to get and stay on the radar.

Describe how ZOOZOOM attained a 27 percent click-through rate on its content.
We think quality content and a quality audience leads to quality connections and high click-throughs.
Quality Content
While all the talk right now is about user-generated content, we are about professionally created content. Tom Sawyer is being hailed as the poster child of Web 2.0 because he got his friends to whitewash a fence on his behalf. The untold story of the fence is it looked like crap and had to be repainted by professionals; there were lawsuits, recriminations and long-standing friendships were strained. We’re more like Pope Julius II commissioning Michelangelo to paint the roof of the Sistine Chapel. We’re professionals and we commission professionals to produce our content: it’s edited, exclusive and original. Everything that appears in ZOOZOOM, both the ads and editorial, was put there by us. User-generated content is like an infinite number of monkeys with laptops and video cameras — every now and then you get something, but mostly you don’t.
Note: Many of the YouTube successes, like lonelygirl15, have professionals skulking behind them.
Quality Audience
The length of time ZOOZOOM has been online (we won our first Webby in 2002), coupled with our consistent delivery of quality content, means we have a loyal audience. Our site design ensures we are indexed on search keywords we feel support our quality content and along the way we’ve picked up some great links as well. We also live in a time where the ownership of fashion is universal. It belongs to a type of person rather than a strict demographic. For this reason we focus on the psychographics of our audience. ZOOZOOM readers love fashion and they love to be inspired.
Online research services suggest we have two main demographics. One is younger (we have a higher than average percentage of 18-34 year old women). They may not afford head to toe designer clothing but they save to buy designer accessories and mix them with vintage and/or pieces from more affordable fashion chains. At the other end of the spectrum we have a higher than average percentage of 55-65 year old women who can and do spend on designer clothing. This is what our young audience will become, as their careers flourish and they have more disposable income.
Quality Connections
The surfing habits of both groups of women are similar. They both trust ZOOZOOM as an authority and they follow our links both from paid-for ads and from our editorial. They surf a site that presents content and ads that inspire. By placing the ads between content and not within it, the ads are accorded the value they deserve. There’s enough bandwidth for a brand to communicate. These things, alongside knowing each advertiser, their goals, and building a package to suit both, lead to quality connections.
Why is this notable?
Most sites aren’t edited, excusive or original; most sites present ads or content that they don’t control. Most sites have click-throughs below 1 percent. We have a loyal audience, new traffic and high click-through rates because of our commitment to content and being careful about how we are indexed by the search engines. We have relationships with our advertisers and we can and do tailor packages to their needs. Even with CPMs of $150, our CPCs are at least four times lower than other sites and can be as much as 20 times lower. We’re different.
What’s the industry norm?
Since the average click-through dipped below 0.5% in 2003 the industry seems less willing to report what can only be described as a grand failure. However our research indicated that current average is 0.1%. This is backed up by a recent Doubleclick report the compares video ads with regular static ads.

How long did it take ZOOZOOM to eclipse that?

ZOOZOOM eclipsed this in the first ten minutes of running our first ad. It was for a Clinique fragrance called ‘Happy’. From that point on we’ve been learning and refining and getting better. One of our most successful advertisers is NET-A-PORTER.COM, an online store that sells Chloé, Matthew Williamson and many others. They’ve been running ads with us since December 2006 and we’ve learned a lot from each other. It’s important to build long-term relationships with advertisers so we can learn what works. Fashion’s primary means of advertising is the double page ad unit featuring expensively produced ads that have a narrative. This is hard to do online in banners and sky-scrapers. Our double page ad unit replicates the print space and is part of the reason the click-throughs are high.

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