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Gap bets big on mobile with user-generated Tumblr campaign

August 13, 2013

A campaign image from Gap's fall 2013 collection

Gap is fueling a massive fall marketing campaign with what the brand claims to be the first takeover of Tumblr’s newly-launched mobile ad products.

The specialty apparel retailer is launching the campaign as part of a broader multichannel effort that includes television, print, out-of-home, in-store, social and digital to drive awareness of its “Back to Blue” fall campaign. Gap is accumulating all of the content for its Tumblr mobile ads via a sweepstakes that encourages consumers to upload simple, unique content to the social site.

“Mobile is the companion screen to our lives,” said Rachel Tipograph, director of global digital and social media at Gap, San Francisco. “We’re seeking to create a moment of pop culture on the Internet, and culture is mainly consumed via our mobile phones.

“The best performing content on Tumblr comes from its users,” she said. “We’re looking to highlight Tumblr users’ original works that share the sentiment of our fall advertising campaign: blue is being simple, blue is being true to the world.”

Consumer control
Gap yesterday launched the “What’s Blue to You” Tumblr campaign, which encourages consumers to submit original content that answers the question about what Gap’s signature denim blue color means to them.

To enter the sweepstakes, consumers must follow Gap’s Tumblr page at They can then upload content in the form of a .gif, .jpg or .png photo.

According to Gap, the brand is looking for creations that are simple but declarative in their message.

For example, fashion blogger FashGif has created a post that reads, “A bolt from the blue” and features animation with a picture of a thunderbolt.

Users can submit up to five different pieces of content and can be fill out an entry form that includes a caption and themed tags for each post.

Sweepstakes submissions run through Aug. 24, and the takeover mobile ads will feature the content from four winning entries on Aug. 29.

The winning content will also be featured on Gap’s Tumblr page in addition to the mobile ads.

Besides the focus on new digital types of marketing, Gap is also returning to TV advertising after four years of not running TV ads this year.

The first Tumblr post for the campaign

Growing mobile usage
By running a mobile-only ad campaign, Gap is likely aiming to tap into Tumblr’s increasingly mobile audience that is interested in consuming snack-sized bits of content from the social site’s mobile Web site and applications.

Since Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr earlier this year, the pressure has been on for Tumblr to monetize its growing mobile user base (see story).

The ads appear as a sponsored post in a user’s Tumblr mobile feed, which is appealing to brands that are upping their investments in mobile native advertising.

Gap’s mobile site

The mobile ad buy also makes sense for Gap, which often tests new mobile technologies before other brands.

For example, in 2012 Gap ran a two-week-long location-based mobile campaign that drove consumers into stores with an offer (see story).

Gap was also one of the first brands to partner with Google Wallet (see story).

“Post-acquisition, the network has yet to solidify the real value behind it being part of Yahoo, how Yahoo plans to leverage content shared and or created for Tumblr across the network,” said Craig Elimeliah, vice president and director of creative technology at Rapp, New York.

Mr. Elimeliah is not affiliated with Gap or Tumblr. He spoke based on his expertise on the subject.

“It felt like that there would be some level of autonomy,” he said. “However, many industry folks feel that since the buy, Tumblr has lost some of the luster that it had.

“Tumblr has always been a big draw of freeform nonlinear creativity, a place people felt safe publishing all kind of content, but now there has been a lot of chatter around the banning anything that might not be brand-friendly. I personally feel that most brands will look to other brands to take that first dip into the water to see what the outcomes are. Gap may be that first brand to do so.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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