"We do not trust brands anymore. We trust individuals: friendly, familiar authority figures with whom we feel great affinity. These are the people we trust and those from whom we would always welcome honest suggestions and tips, and when they are spontaneous or clearly disclosed even those of commercial nature."
So says Robin Good in his provocative post on the Brand Ambassador, in which he touts highly credible and authoritative bloggers as the advertising channel of the future.
Good envisions "bottom-up advertising with publishers selecting the favorite brands they would want to endorse." And further: "In reality bloggers or other similar online authority figures could publicly pre-elect companies and brands that they would want to be Brand Ambassadors for. They could do this directly on their sites and/or via their representative advertising agencies. This advertising model would provide companies embracing it with a communication vehicle with much higher impact and effectiveness that anything they have done so far via traditional advertising."
But how would bloggers be able to maintain their authority (which is, of course, based on trust) if they're paid to endorse a brand (even if they truly believed in it)?
Good has an answer to that, too:
"Yes, you say, but you are going to be influenced by those who pay you. Yes, I answer. But so do you with the people that spend big money on your site with traditional advertising. And if that is not so, how in any case can people tell? How can they find out whether the new review, article or link you did was a consequence of a return favor you are doing to an advertising agency or to a past direct advertiser who would want to come back? Unless you have some very strict, and public disclosure policy about this info, it is going only through your actions over time that people will be able to tell whether you have your own integrity or whether you are simply a marketing puppet at the service of whoever pays you more."
So, in the end, Good's model would make things more transparent and actually increase the level of trust between bloggers and their audience. And that again would raise the value for the advertiser.