Before you read this I want to make it clear that I am in no way disappointed by Microsoft as a customer (of mine in this case). Furthermore, I did what is described below primarily to illustrate a point, not to specifically make any extra money.  I really hope that I have not offended anyone. In any case, to my best knowledge no one has ever before sold advertising space (compare a 60 second commercial) in a conference presentation. I did, and it was thought stimulating as well as fun. The audience seemed to agree :-). Even so, I have no plans or intentions to do it again.

Last Friday I did a gig (in Swedish) for Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, following CEO Steve Ballmer when he key noted about their expanded services in the area of online advertising. The audience at this INNOVATE event consisted of about 100+ personally invited representatives from the Swedish ad media scene, read primarily big media buyers/agencies. My task was to during 30 minutes:

  • in an engaging and interesting fashion tell about the current changes in media consumption
  • touch upon consequences for brands using media to talk to their target group
  • present with an ”attitude” so that claims and open questions provoke thoughts

Whan I first was approached by a Microsoft representative inquiring about my services I forwarded him to my (former) speakers agency. They ended up recommending me to accept Microsofts policy not to pay speakers for this kind of assignments. Whereas I do understand the value of appearing in close proximity to Mr. Ballmer, I considered this to be a presentation not paid for – by Microsoft. Hence, it could be described as ”free”. But as with any content, someone must pay in the end. Well, I decided to implement an attitudinal play with the notion of ”free, but paid by advertising”. Hence I looked for an advertiser who saw the value of buying 60 seconds of my presentation. As a result I sold space in my gig to .se, the Swedish administrator of our countrys top domain. They made a video featuring CEO Danny Aerts promoting .se’s upcoming conference Internetdagarna (November 5-6, in Swedish).

In short, in the presentation I introduced myself and mentioned that the gig was not paid for by Microsoft. Then about 1/3 into the gig I ran .se:s ad. After it I immediately remarked that this was my way to get money for the content I provided. Then I continued by highlighting key findings from a study of why people put affiliate banners in their blogs. (Yes, for money, but also for credibility, brand appropriation, aesthetics, and more…). The whole presentation will soon be available in the weconverse videos section.

Here is an edited excerpt from my presentation. Even though it is in Swedish and you might not understand what is being said, I hope it add some meaning to my textual description.

I am very grateful for your comments. Good/bad idea? Not so new? Should perhaps presentations be the source of a new kind of media? Please let us know.

  • Great idea. And straightforward – audience is attentive (hopefullly :-) , interested in the subject and furthermore obliged to stay put. I can think of no better audience for an ad – I guess I will try to sell an ad for my own next presentation about web 2.0, just to test the reactions.

  • Claus, thanks for your comment. Although I am not so sure it generally is a good idea (compare spam and tele marketing :-). But if you go ahead, perhaps you should clear it with your host (the one who asked you to present), and aftwerard please share the reactions with us.

  • This is an interesting provocation to drive a discussion about who should pay for services. Isn’t it remarkable that even a commercial company like Microsoft has a ”policy not to pay speakers” at a commercial event like this?

    Richard’s way of financing his appearance is just an usual way of doing what everybody is doing on the web, publishing free content that is financed by ads. This is fine in most cases, but I do feel that it is now urgent that we discuss the implications of this model and come up with several new, alternative models.

    This discussion could be coupled to the debate over Googles way of financing Gmail with targeted ads. In Sweden several journalists have expressed concerns about this, but always without suggesting any other means of financing this service, or pointing out that Google has an ad-free version that the user has to pay a small sum to use, (however this does not seem to entice many). See Joakim Jardenberg’s blog about an interview with Google Sweden’s marketing manager:

    It would be interesting to organize a workshop about these issues! In Sweden we have good grounds for coming up with interesting solutions and test them locally.

    The overlaying question How can people be motivated to pay for digital content” could aso be coupled to this discussion. Richard’s speech is also a form of content that can be of value both live and downloaded, but how and why should we pay for it?
    See the blog Vassa Eggen and my comment about Radiohead’s new album that they sell online and let the buyers decide the price:

  • What a wonderful example! A true innovation! Gives flavor to the logic of paid advertising in other media vehicles. Why won’t you do it again? ;-)

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