In its first major push into Madison Avenue, Web and mobile browser software developer Mozilla has cut its first deals with big advertisers and at least one big media-buying organization to help it develop ways for brands to participate in a major content play. The deals, which include agreements with GroupM’s Mindshare unit, its client CVS Health, and two independent brands -- travel site Booking.com and Hollywood studio The Weinstein Co. -- are toes in the water, but the free, open-source software giant has ambitious plans for transforming the way people create and share content across digital screens, including advertisers and agencies.
“Our doors are wide open,” says Darren Herman, vice president-content services at Mozilla, who joined the company more than a year ago from MDC Partners’ The Media Kitchen, where he was chief digital media officer.
Herman described the deal with Mindshare and parent GroupM as helping Mozilla to “design our product roadmap,” and said the agency and holding company have been very supportive about developing ways of integrating brands with Mozilla.
Mozilla, which is best known for its free Firefox Web browser software, initially is offering brands the opportunity to participate in its own, organic content: The so-called “tiles” that new users (or returning users who clean their browser cookies) see when they go to Firefox’s homescreen (see example of CVS Health's placement in accompanying image).
Over time, as users develop browser histories, Firefox replaces those default tiles with users’ favorites. Herman says Mozilla is still working through how brands can have a deeper and more sustaining role with users’ Mozilla experience, and he said it is working with Booking.com to figure out how to make it a user’s preferred travel tile when they develop more of an ongoing browsing history on Firefox.
He describes Mozilla’s initial foray into publishing as more of “PSA” approach to content and branding, and said its evolution will be determined by how well it services its users -- many of whom are some of the most tech-savvy consumers of digital media, including a high concentration of professionals in the tech industry.
The deal with Weinstein Co., not surprisingly, involves the studio’s new film about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, “Citizenfour,” which speaks to the heart of Mozilla’s open-source technology community.Herman says Mozilla would like to expand its brand and agency discussions more deeply into other areas where its browser and operating system software can help both Madison Avenue and the content creators -- both big and small -- create and distribute to users. He says Mozilla is making this push at a time when both the advertising and content communities are facing the potential that a few giant digital media platforms could begin to constrain the open flow of information, including content and brand messaging.