The other day I learned (via Kurt Kragh Sorensen’s blog) that Luton Borough Council allows advertising from external parties on their intranet.
BT has done this for some years and earned a lot of money from it, according to Mark Morrell who was managing the BT intranet at that time.
I have always loved the idea, and I asked Mark some time ago for his experiences and suggestions. (You may know I hate reinventing wheels.) Mark offered the suggestions detailed below.
1. Use only one page to display ads.
At BT they displayed ads on the news page. If you have too many places with advertising and your audience gets distracted easily, it might lead to irritation.
In an international organization you could use a local facilities or employee benefits page. (Ads are often locally applicable.)
Luton Borough Council has two places, one on the Homepage (!) and one on the Employee Offerings page.
2. Find advertisers that fit your business.
You could think about organizations with whom you already have contracts, which fit to your core values, or where you can advertise yourself.
Luton Borough Council does not mention any restrictions for advertisers, but that may simply not be published.
3. Arrange special offers for employees.
You might offer a discount on insurance for your employees, a free private Gold Service from your preferred car rental company, or a discount for a local shop; these are much more acceptable than a generic advertisement for clothing.
If BT advertised on another intranet, they also offered a special deal such as discount on a phone subscription, for instance.
The ads on Luton Borough Council’s site suggest nice offers for their staff. That is why I like it—the ad functions as a form of employee benefits.
4. Be open about the profits.
At BT, everyone knew that the proceeds of the ads were used for improving the news page, and for a quarterly magazine on paper for employees. That openness, and the fact that everyone at BT profited from the advertising, decreased resistance (which was not large anyway).
Luton Borough Council does not state where the profits go, but I hope they communicate this internally.
5. Set boundaries.
BT had a maximum of two ads at once, and each online ad ran for up to two weeks. BT did not show the ads on “prime real estate,” so they were not taking the place of business content and not drawing an overwhelming amount of attention.
Luton Borough Council has one of their spots on the Homepage, which I would find a bit too much.
6. Specify ad requirements upfront.
Provide information such as dimensions, file types, and the amount of animation that you allow.
Luton Borough Council provides some size details, and is also very open about their (modest) fees.
7. Implement a clear process.
How are you going to find advertisers? Who approves advertisers/advertisements? Who negotiates the rates? How do you deal with complaints from employees? How much time can you spend on this process?
8. Test and measure.
Test first whether it catches on and whether there are serious objections.
Then, keep measuring if people click the ads, if no irritation occurs and whether it is profitable.
When I posted a Dutch version of this blog, I immediately received an angry comment from a civil servant saying that “he never wanted to see this commercialism infect his intranet.”
I hope the employees of Luton Borough Council have fewer objections. :-)
I have never heard that other organizations allow advertising. If you know or do, would you please let me know?
You can find the original version of Ellen’s blog here.