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Brand Mascots Have MySpace Habit

By all accounts, brand mascots should have a profile page on MySpace. And marketers should deploy their most creative people to come up with something kitschy and fresh to put on it. Wendy's mascot "Smart," for example, has more than 81,000 friends who've linked to his page and posted notes that say "I luv u." Rival Burger King also has a page for its "king." Columbia Pictures posted a profile for Will Ferrell's character "Ricky Bobby," the fictional NASCAR racer from the movie "Talladega Nights." You get the idea. But these profile pages, unlike user profile pages, don't come free or cheap. For CPG and other big-brand national advertisers, these profile pages are the best MySpace has to offer. Past success shows that consumers are willing to make friends with a brand if a mascot's profile manages to stay cute and a little offbeat. Buyers of these MySpace pages get some fancy features for their money, and the profiles receive extra promotion to other users through banner ads and text links. Costs run anywhere from $100K to more than $1 million, depending on the technical aspects and the level of internal promotion, says Michael Barrett, chief revenue officer at Fox Interactive. MySpace also accepts unpaid commercial profiles, but these sites are limited in their functionality. All commercial profiles are governed by the following rules: no direct selling from the page, and no profanity, offensive content or nudity. MediaPost columnist Max Kalehoff, vp of marketing at Nielsen's BuzzMetrics, warns that too much commercialism could ruin the MySpace experience. "There's a ton of advertising dollars that are waiting to throw themselves into these platforms," he says. "But ultimately, the value comes from the members. What draws members into these gathering places is the realness and authenticity. ... The bombardment of commercialism could destroy what makes it great in the first place.

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