So, you're a media buyer at a major interactive agency, and you've been taken to some nice lunches and events by the folks who are trying to sell you on the notion that MySpace is worthy of consideration for your clients' dollars. How well has their pitch resonated with you?
Have they told you that all the safeguards they've been adding to the media for teens will ensure that your ads are seen in alignment with the values of the brand?
Have they told you that MySpace is the hottest thing in media since, well, the advent of the web itself? This is the new frontier of media, right? So, maybe we should also discount what we read in the trades about why the aggregate CPM is so low on the site.
I've never participated in a MySpace meeting along these lines. But, I'd be prepared to believe every one of these assertions, were they made to me today. I'd also be prepared to believe that MySpace is potentially too scurrilous a place to spend money on behalf of my brand. It's not that MySpace is too close to porn, as so many have asserted. But, while MySpace probably is the hottest thing on the web today, it's also very risky and nothing like other media -- even online -- so I would be hard-pressed to spend my client's dollars there.
How can these juxtaposed assertions both be true?
Here's how-- because MySpace is to our web media as our web media was to broadcast back in 1996. Just because MySpace has been growing like crazy and pays not a dime for its content, it does not necessarily follow that MySpace's advertising model is compelling, or even fully-baked.
First of all, let's talk about that content. What I regard as acceptable and what 99.9 percent of all marketers with an ad budget regard as acceptable are probably fairly aligned. But, these two are way, way out of alignment with what 99.9 percent of 16-18 year olds would regard as acceptable on the web. A disproportionately high number of MySpace profiles would make regular MTV watchers blush. While many kids and young adults spend a ton of time on MySpace, plenty of adults into their 50s and 60s do as well, and it's anyone's guess what they're doing there.
According to the site's own recent data, more than 75 million users have their own pages and a staggering 240,000 new users join every day. The site's 48 million monthly visitors consume more than 27.4 billion pages of content-- or nearly 11,000 pages every second.
Even a cursory scroll through the site reveals that what used to be said in notes passed secretly in class is now fodder for personal websites that can be aggregated and accessed by seekers of prurience-- but somehow, not so easily by marketers.
This is one place that I expect MySpace to make a big change in the site's architecture. Look for them to make each entry into the many groups accessible via a portal for its users. Today, the purely linear, viral nature of the MySpace that is so much fun for users is anything but fun for advertisers who require far more content security and targeting precision than MySpace can provide for their messages. This seems certain to change soon.
Where does MySpace fit when compared to other media?
On the one hand, while so many of us were debating whether the web would ever be a strong media for branding or just a great direct response tool, SEM pioneers reinvented direct response altogether, and have brought billions into our world.
On the other hand, the very nature of MySpace's freedom for its content-generating users, which is the site's strongest suit while also being the characteristic that may scare off many brands, enables MySpace to do things for edgier brands that cannot be done anywhere else. This is why record labels and certain other industry types have embraced the site so closely. And it's also why it made so much sense for News Corp. to purchase it.
What other media organization is so involved with our cultural conversations? Just as Fox changed network television in the U.S., and now Fox News seems bent on polarizing our political views, MySpace is an entirely new kind of distribution channel. The difference is that this time the content is not produced by Fox, it's produced by young users.
That is, most of the content is. Look for different kinds of branding campaigns than we've seen before to proliferate on MySpace. The kind of edgier video that makes its way virally around the web will increasingly be distributed, if not spawned on MySpace. If you're an advertiser doing something very different than what is accepted on most sites, and you want to increase the buzz among those under 30, looking at MySpace may make some sense. But, for those of us who have been waiting for and advocating for larger and more established brands to spend their money online, the last thing we want to do is drag them to a suburban house party filled with teens and college kids, behaving in ways that they would only behave there-- that is, until MySpace.
Mark Naples is managing partner at WIT Strategy. .