Today Tumblr announced the launch of Creatrs, a new program that pairs Tumblr’s artists with brands and advertising campaigns.

The project has been in development for roughly a year. At a breakfast meeting at Tumblr’s offices in New York, head of creative strategy David Hayes explained the ways in which Tumblr is expanding its work with brands outside of Tumblr — and how the company is using its own community to do it.

He started with Tumblr user Cindy Suen, who creates vibrant bubbly cartoons of monsters eating burgers and dogs wearing hamburgers for shoes. Shortly after discovering Suen’s work, Hayes got her to work on a Sizzle campaign for Tumblr. Then, Hayes asked Suen create art for a T-shirt to be sold as part of a charity campaign. Finally, six months later, Hayes began connecting Suen with projects for major ad campaigns, including work for the movie Ouija, as well as background art on the singing competition show, The Voice. Suen got paid for all this work.

With Creatrs, Tumblr wants to open these ad opportunities to more of its 420 million monthly users — a community that’s already leveraging its creative powers for financial gain. Just look to the 100 books that have come out of Tumblr blogs, including New York Times bestseller Humans of New York.

Creatrs will connect Tumblr artists with causes, events, arts, education opportunities, advertising campaigns, and media partnerships. To facilitate those connections, Tumblr is launching the Creatrs Network, which offers brands a suite of content creation “partners” to help them achieve their own advertising objectives. At Tumblr, an internal team connects the brand with the right artists — rather then letting them shop themselves.

Tumblr says that, in the last six months, it paid a quarter of a million dollars to artists during its test phase. There are 300 artists on the network, so far. And at the moment, there’s no way for additional artists to join the network. Tumblr says it wants to see how the network performs with the artists it already has before opening it up.

Creatrs and its adjacent Creatrs Network is a big opportunity for Tumblr to expand its advertising platform beyond the blog and out into the world. As a result, this program could significantly advance Tumblr’s value to Yahoo (its owner). In this way, Tumblr is presenting itself as new kind of advertising agency — an interesting new move for the company.

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