Announced with much fanfare in May, Honeyshed (at www.honeyshed.com ) is to feature original sketch comedy clips and live programming built around consumer brands and aimed at an 18- to-30-year-old audience.
Still in beta testing, the soft launch this week gave users and potential advertisers their first look at the site billed as "QVC meets MTV." Honeyshed's formal debut is slated for December.
"We've spent a huge amount of time building the site, trying to ensure that the site feels distinctive," says David Droga, chairman of Droga5, a Publicis subsidiary along with Digitas. "We didn't just want to shove everything up there at once."
With a full-time staff of 40 to 50 working on the project in Los Angeles, the site is starting with some 30 videos--each two to three minutes long--with another 70 ready to go, according to Droga. Rather than creating shows tailored to specific brands, Honeyshed so far has focused on demo videos for different product categories.
The clips feature a group of attractive young "presenters" in a variety of spoof commercials. Users have the ability to share the videos with others and embed them on their own sites. A chat feature encourages discussion among viewers, and the site includes links to buy featured products.
The plan is to showcase the content more generally for marketers before proceeding with shows geared to particular brands. While working with advertisers such as Sephora and Estee Lauder during the test phase, none have formally signed on yet to place branded content on Honeyshed.
"This allows us to establish some credibility as curators, and once it gains momentum, the idea is to start selling in brand-specific shows," explains Droga. Whether advertisers and the youthful consumers they crave will flock to Honeyshed is far from certain.
Anheuser-Busch's ambitious attempt to build a branded destination site targeting the same demographic last year fell notoriously flat. Replicating the viral appeal of spots that emerge on popular video sites like YouTube has proven elusive within a branded portal.
This hasn't stopped others from pursuing the advertising-as-content model. In addition to Honeyshed, there's the new Microsoft and NBCU-backed venture Firebrand, developed as an online and mobile platform to feature the "coolest" TV commercials. NBCU's USA Network also plans to launch a site called Didja for new and classic TV spots next year.
Meanwhile, TBS' veryfunnyads.com, the Web extension of its "World's Funniest Commercials" show, reports more than 73 million views since launching last year.
But Droga stresses the difference between Honeyshed and the TBS site. "We're all original programming. This isn't a dumping ground or aggregated content site," he says. "We want people to feel the energy and vibe and voice of Honeyshed."