Socializing for Dollars

How advertisers are getting it right on social networking sites MySpace and Xanga

BW's Steve Rosenbush has a good story that outlines the traction some social networking sites are getting in bringing on big-name advertisers. Steve argues that people thought that social networking sites were a fad, but now that skepticism is evaporating.

Still, I don't think that's the reason people had doubts about social networking sites. I think people thought that the ones that appealed to younger audiences, like MySpace, could end up being victims of the vagaries of an audience that moves on quickly when it gets tired of something. And I still think it's too early to know whether that skepticism is justified.

But what I do think that advertisers have figured out is that they just can't plop the same old ad they use on TV, for instance, into these groups. The marketing has to be tailored to the group.

A great example of applying this lesson is a recent campaign by Sprite on MySpace. Sprite, which sponors the NBA All-Star Weekend in February, had been losing some of the younger audience and was looking for a way to pull them in again. So their agencey, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, came up with the idea of making an interactive game called Dunk Face, that let people upload their face onto a basketball players body and then pick the music, camera angle and shot they would use to make their dunk.

They hosted the game on Sprite.com and MySpace and had links to Xanga. The idea was that people on social networking sites are into their pictures and profiles. And they were right. Some days, the Dunk Face contest was attracting 150,000 people a day, which says BSSP's Andy Sims, is about what an advertiser would get for taking over the front page of a portal like Yahoo...But for much much less. Taking over Yahoo's front page costs $150,000 to $200,000 for one day, while the entire Sprite game cost $15,000, Sims says.

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