Even as it labors to reverse audience declines through a sharpened focus on entertainment content, MySpace hopes new investments in ad products and consumer research will keep brand advertisers interested.
Speaking with ClickZ News this week, Chief Revenue Officer Nada Stirratt said MySpace has done “a lot of work on determining the best way to insert marketing messages” into users’ experience of the site. That work has culminated in the development of new ad formats and executions to be integrated with its relaunch.
Strirratt said the company created a unit called MySpace Studio at the beginning of the year to help figure out the best way to integrate brands with the consumer experience on the site. As part of that effort it partnered with MIT to create a usability lab and also launched a consumer insights panel at the beginning of September to help gauge the impact of advertiser and content experiences on the site.
“We’re doing a lot on the consumer insight side to construct programs for marketers… It’s among some of the most sophisticated stuff on the research side being done today,” Stirratt claimed, adding, “We can use those insights to develop new ad products and to dictate ad design… It becomes a smarter ad experience.”
The research has helped inform a range of new ad formats, some of which MySpace is seeking to patent, Stirratt said. Among the new units is the HD Skin, which is intended to give the full experience of a third party site directly on the Myspace homepage. The ad turns the entire skin into a video unit and pulls in content from third party social media sites – a capability that’s somewhat reminiscent of the Project Devil ads developed by AOL.
The Skin format is already live, and has – ironically – been used to promote Facebook inspired movie The Social Network. Some other units, however, including a “storyboard” unit, will have to wait for the full rollout of the redesigned site. The storyboard ad will take advantage of the vertically oriented nature of the new design, allowing marketers to engage with users through a series of ads as they scroll through a page of content, and to tell a story through the use of the recurring messages.
Alongside the new ad formats, Stirratt said the company is also continuing to place emphasis on the original content side of its business, and has sold recent campaigns to HP and Wendy’s around live-streamed music events and online-only Web series. It’s currently in the process of filming a 14-episode documentary around the dance phenomenon Jerkin – called “Jerkin Allstars” – which will premier November 30th with Coca-Cola-owned brand Sprite as the sole sponsor. Users will be free to syndicate the content to other networks, but Stirratt said it’s important that “the conversation starts on MySpace.”
There’s no escaping the fact that without an audience, engaging ad executions and content is of little use to marketers, and MySpace continues to lose ground in that department to social networking rivals such as Facebook and Twitter. According to comScore, the volume of unique users to the site has plummeted 35 percent over the past twelve months, and continues to drop.
It’s that trend that the News Corp-owned site is looking to combat with its re-launch, and by attempting to remove itself from direct competition with the other networks. “Our biggest point of difference is that people come to MySpace to discover and consume entertainment content,” Stirratt said, suggesting Twitter’s biggest draw is news content while Facebook focuses on users.
Despite the re-launch and new ad executions, Stirratt said the site will not be offering new targeting capabilities, but will continue to target based on users’ self-reported interests and behavioral data gleaned from their activity on the site.
In reference to the type of advertisers the site is now courting, Stirratt said entertainment is a key vertical, but also cited the CPG and auto categories. “For any brands wanting to reach young adults, MySpace is an easy place to find them all,” she said.