Tumblr’s Karp goes into pitchman mode for advertisers

For someone who was once so disdainful of advertising, Tumblr founder David Karp seems to have really come around.

On stage Monday during an Advertising Week event in New York, the CEO spoke in superlatives, telling marketers about the “extraordinary,” “brave new world” Tumblr and its digital peers are building for advertising.

In the past few months, the company has launched its first paid product for advertisers, hired a new head of global sales and experimented with a number of big name brands. (Hear more about Tumblr’s advertising efforts from Karp at our RoadMap conference on November 5th in San Francisco).

This week, the company’s new advertising orientation is on full display with a prominent, front-of-the-book ad in the Advertising Week guide and at multiple events.

On a Bloomberg Leadership Summit panel with executives from Pepsi, Havas and media companies, Karp pushed his company’s new approach to “native” non-intrusive marketing.

As opposed to traditional marketing that tends to take the same shape across the medium (for example, 30-second spots appear on all TV networks), Karp said newer digital platforms are much more concerned with creating advertising appropriate for the environment.

“We’re much less likely to take directions that are going to compromise that – that are going to inject something alien that pulls you out of Tumblr, or whatever [site] it is and send you to the other network,” he said.

On Tumblr, advertising takes the form of creativity-centric posts that look organic to the site, not disruptive, full-screen, “big honkin’” interstitial ads that make you want to close out of your browsing experience and head somewhere else, Karp said.

“Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, all of us, and all the marketers, brands and media companies, our interests are more aligned than they’ve ever been, which is we want people to pay attention,” he said.

With about 27 million unique visitors in July, an impressive 6.7 million mobile visitors that month and 70 million blogs, Tumblr has a big network to offer advertisers.  But it still remains to be seen what kinds of returns advertisers get from the nontraditional ads on Tumblr. Later this week,  six months after the first Tumblr ad, the company plans to release some initial findings about its latest efforts and it will be interesting to see what they have in store.