Free Tunes Offer Is Cross-Promo for Apple and Facebook

The word “free” may grab most people’s attention, but for high school and college students, it’s practically a mating call. In offering free iTunes music samplers to its young audience, social networking site Facebook is cooing in their language.

“Music is a core part of the lives of 18 to 24 year olds,” suggested Melanie Deitch, director of marketing at Facebook.

The cross-promotional branding effort launched yesterday offers Facebook users 10 million 25-song iTunes samplers featuring a total of 250 million songs. One million compilations featuring an array of musical genres will be made available each week for the following ten weeks, just in time for the fall semester. Any of Facebook’s 8.3 million users can visit the Apple-sponsored group on the site to get a code that enables free sampler downloads at the iTunes site, if they’re among the first million that week.

The two companies have been affiliated for about a year. Apple also sponsors a group on Facebook through which users can get discounts on Apple goods.

For the student schmooze-destination, “It’s about providing compelling, interesting things on the site that users care about,” said Deitch. For Apple, she added, “it’s about extending the iTunes brand.” Facebook will promote the iTunes offer throughout its site, but won’t run ads anywhere else, according to Deitch.

The site offers advertisers three levels of ads. “Fliers” are used by local advertisers to promote things like sorority events or deals on grub from off-campus pizza joints. The site also offers standard targeted banners.

Group sponsorships are the third ad tier. Like the multitude of user-initiated groups centered on particular interests, advertisers have the ability to sponsor their own group. In addition to the two Apple-sponsored groups, Facebook includes one dedicated to “An Inconvenient Truth,” the environmental flick featuring former Vice President Al Gore, and another promoting the Dave Matthews Band 2006 tour. In June, Interpublic Group struck a deal with Facebook to facilitate advertiser sponsorships and conduct consumer research for its clients.

The networking hub’s members hail from over 2,300 colleges and 22,000 high schools. Harvard students alone have more than 10,000 groups set up on the site, according to Deitch. In April, the site opened up its exclusive network to staff from a handful of companies including Apple, Accenture, Amazon, Gap, Intel, Microsoft and Pepsi.

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