Thursday, September 21, 2006

Whose space

MySpace has signed its first branded community deal with Unilever. It's going to be interesting to see how this goes down.

There was, from the start of News Corporation's $580m acquisition of MySpace, speculation that it would lead to commercialisation.

That's not a problem in itself, commercialisation has to have a place, as even before Murdoch bought MySpace it was a business. The problem comes when things start to get over commercialised.

Towel Boy has some fun elements and is unlikely to piss off too many people. There are 136 comments on the site already, which appear to be real, most rolling with the fun of a quite amusing idea. Women like it, as well -- it's a hot guy in a towel. And some men like it, because well it's a hot guy in a towel, and the rest don't seem to mind.

There's been a decent effort to create content and enrich the whole experience. Personally, I'm not sure why I would become a friend of Towel Boy... what with him not actually being a real boy or for that matter what a community of Lynx users might do? Meet and spray each other with deodorant? I'm not so sure about that, I have allergies.

But some are clearly going to see this as another sign of more fakeness on MySpace, particularly of the celebrity variety. In many cases, the work of stars' and celebrities' marketing helpers making everything too corporate and less authentic -- whatever that means.

Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, has cautioned that advertisers are blurring the line "between authentic content creation and advertising", saying that it all could backfire.

That is the danger, cooking the golden goose and blowing all of this away and forcing people to move on and go elsewhere.

Blackshaw has said that MySpace will particularly vulnerable as it introduces more "blended" product advertising pages, like the Lynx page.

"That's the zone that is sort of unproven. It potentially has a higher turn-off factor because consumers may perceive it as 'over the line'."

At the moment it's novel, but as more and more brands come on board that's when it stops being novel and starts to become tiresome. Well, so the argument goes anyway. That is unless brands can start to offer something more and give something back to these communities -- rather than just take their custom.

I'm not sure what it is, but as this sort of marketing spreads, brands need to up their game to keep pace. Doing more of what Lynx has done will work for a while, but then we will need to see it adapt.

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