Fox Gets 'Free Ride' On MySpace, Social Net To Promote TV Net
Over a month ago, Fox seeded MySpace, a social networking site, with "profile" pages for "Free Ride" characters "Nate" and "Dove." At first, stealth marketing was used. The profiles bore no mention of the show, and resembled pages for any random 20-somethings from Johnson City, Mo., where the comedy is set. The pages had funky art and listed the guys' preferences in books and music. (In retrospect, the list of favorite television shows offered by "Dove" might have hinted something was up: All 16 were from Fox.) The pages also included personal videos that Fox made expressly to blend into the MySpace milieu.
Once the pages were posted in the MySpace ether, viral marketers then worked to get people to visit them, interact, and hopefully return.
Now, as Wednesday's premiere of the comedy approaches, the campaign has moved out from behind the curtain: Fox has begun placing ads for "Free Ride" within each profile. Those banners link to the show's section on Fox.com.
Separately, Fox has created a special MySpace page devoted to "Free Ride" accessible through a link on the MySpace home page. That site includes a video trailer, MySpace pages for all nine show characters, and the opportunity for MySpace users to link their profiles to the site, becoming "friends" of the show.
With some 50 million members, MySpace, which News Corp. acquired last summer, is a potential marketing boon for the media giant's properties, including film studio 20th Century Fox, the Fox network, FX, Speed Channel--perhaps even TV Guide and DirecTV.
Last week, News Corp. executives indicated that they plan to use MySpace as a promo vehicle to help launch My Network TV. The new network--whose moniker was believed by some to be derived from MySpace--will launch this fall on Fox-owned stations, and will seek other affiliates around the country.
"Free Ride"--which should get strong initial viewer sampling since it premieres after "American Idol"--focuses on a recent UC Santa Barbara graduate, Nate Stahlings (Josh Dean), who returns home to live with his parents in Johnson City, Mo. with no real plans. Things aren't as he imagined, with his parents' marriage on the rocks and his room transformed into a gym. He reconnects with Mark Dove (Dave Sheridan), a monster-truck-driving n'er do well, who promises to show him the local party scene.