Just An Online Minute... My Media, MySpace
These are the findings of an online survey conducted by Bolt Media that appeared on the Web site of Advertising Age earlier this week. Of those polled, 84 percent listed Web-surfing as their top activity, 76 percent said spending time with friends, 71 percent said watching movies, and 69 percent said watching TV. And the five most-watched TV networks? Fox, Comedy Central, ABC, MTV, and Cartoon Network.
These findings must give the networks pause, particularly in this pregnant moment of upfront frenzy. Of course what gives the networks and old media companies even more pause is the MySpace phenomenon, or Facebook, or YouTube, or Revver, or any Web-based entity that's busting at the seams with community and self-generated/virally propogated content. Getting users, particularly young people, to interact with and ultimately evangelize brands that are embedded in some way into user-generated content, seems to be hot right now. Yes?
If that is the case, MySpace is a case in point. MySpace is huge--77 million members--by today's estimates. Still, many people continue to ask: "But what's the business model?"
The Minute recently spoke with Colin Digiaro, senior vice president of sales at MySpace, who attempted to explain its ad strategy--which, by the way, appears to be based on building customized programs for brand advertisers. There are brands that have profiles on MySpace such as Wendy's. There are also advertisers that sponsor specific users, along with advertisers that sponsor bands and concert tours. Aquafina appears to be a prominent advertiser on MySpace's film channel.
"Early on, advertisers were wondering how to work with social networks as a whole," Digiaro says. "I think our approach is unique." He went on to explain that users tend to interact with brand networks just as they would with their friend network. "It's a normal communication pattern. As a whole, this generation is very skeptical of media." Realizing that "they've grown up being told who they are and what they [should] listen to, being marketed to," helped the company figure out "how to talk to the MySpace generation," Digiaro says.
MySpace works almost as a consultant with advertisers, helping to craft messaging and content delivery, he notes. With Wendy's, for example, MySpace is ramping up the second phase of an ad program. "They thought we could put up banners and hope someone clicked on it. We said we could create a platform that speaks to this audience in a more relevant way," he says. Ultimately, Wendy's came up with a persona for the square patty, a kind of character dubbed "Smart." The irreverent approach struck a chord.
The approach worked and Wendy's, in a sense, began programming its own brand network with relevant content that connects with users who choose to interact with it. The campaign ran two months ago and is currently being refreshed. Wendy's attracted more than 90,000 self-selecting members to its network. "We call it opt-in branding," Digiaro says. "They chose to interact with the brand. There's a deep level of brand engagement and it becomes a great vehicle to spur word-of-mouth marketing."
In the case of Sprite, the soft drink brand "took interesting content and incorporated it into the overall MySpace experience. It allows the brand to give the community something of value," Digiaro says, adding, "This generation is all about self-expression and consuming content in its own way."
MySpace has an internal agency of sorts that supports advertisers' agencies. Brand marketers come calling on MySpace asking which bands to sponsor. Brands can sponsor the "Top Artists" section. Advertising on the music, movie, film, and comedy channels is popular these days, as is the home page.
"We have advertiser representation in nearly every major vertical," Digiaro says.
So, where are the kids? They're all online, scampering about amid the brands and the bands, the games and the girls, the fun and the films. But maybe they should be outside; it's a gorgeous day in New York, at least.