Will a $20 million ad campaign bring Myspace back from the dead?

rising from the grave

A seven-week, $20 million advertising campaign to bring the old MySpace social site back to life launched June 12 with 30-second spots on Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, Fuse, BET, Adult Swim and ESPN. It will continue with multiple airings during the June 13 NBA Finals and on radio and digital media after that.

And, if initial response is any guide, that $20 million will probably all be wasted.

Rise and fall

MySpace was launched ten years ago, in August, 2003, as a social site for starting and up-and-coming musicians to showcase themselves, their bands and their songs. But it soon grew beyond that. From 2005 to 2008, it was the world’s most visited social networking site. In 2006, in fact, it got more US hits than Google. But then Facebook overtook it – in unique worldwide visitors in 2008 and unique US visitors in 2009 – and never looked back.

With the site ranked 220th in total web traffic and 133rd in the US as of February, 2013, it’s now trying to return to its original music roots – but in some very unoriginal ways.

Intellectual incest

The one thing that’s genuinely new about the site is the spelling of its name; owners Specific Media changed the “s” from upper to lower case, making the new spelling Myspace.

As for the rest, they seem to have built it the way Dr. Frankenstein built men – from various spare parts that were lying around – and you know how well that worked.

For example, they’re taking the social music functionality of Pandora, iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio and Spotify and Deezer internationally, combining it with crowdsourcing, calling it MyRadio, and claiming, “We’re giving everyone in the world their [sic] own radio station.” Only instead of picking from a bunch of music genres, as on Pandora, you get to pick from playlists picked – oh, excuse me, “curated” – by a paid inner circle of music performers.

They’re adding (gasp!) an iPhone app – who’d have ever thought of that? – as a free download.

Myspace’s design itself, the developers admit, is “reminiscent of Tumblr and Pinterest.” And by copying a news aggregation platform called wearehunted they’d developed in 2009, they added “a music chart that was centered around [sic] emerging musicians.”

Corporate incest

That chart may center on musicians, but the whole setup seems cenetered on something else.

Four months ago, in February, we wondered why Budweiser chose Justin Timberlake, “a [former] boy-band (NSync) heartthrob whose fan base was teenage girls” to be “creative and musical curator” to sell failing pseudo-craft brand Bud Light Platinum to 20something men.

Last month, we wondered why Budweiser had a history of choosing MySpace instead of websites people actually went to, to promote the musical events that were their idea of a marketing strategy.

As it turns out, Timberlake may be the common thread. As Advertising Age notes, “Justin Timberlake…has an ownership stake in Specific Media,” which owns and developed the new Myspace.

How ’bout that?

Creative incest

The :30 television commercials, which were edited from a :90 video, were produced in house, and they show it – not in the quality of the camerawork and lighting, but in the creative content, which is more about Myspace talking to itself than to an audience.

The on-camera talent, and we use that word loosely, includes performers Pharrell, Ciara, Mac Miller, Riff Raff, Erin Wasson, Chance the Rapper and Hit-Boy, all on a white set, smashing instruments and otherwise acting someone’s idea of super-kewl. All this takes place over a 2011 track of The Orwells’ Mallrats (La La La) and Fidlar’s 5 to 9, whose lyrics read in part:

Three o’clock in the morning, double vision with my homies

Four o’clock, feeling funny, got no care and we got no money.

Five o’clock, bumming sunset, drinking forties till we can’t see

Six o’clock, get too bent and ask if Evan’s got anything.

The campaign, according to the Guardian, “is sinking $20m[illion] into an adveertising campaign to let people know aboutn the new website and app, hammering home the message that things have changed a lot from the previous version’s darkest days…”

Bu the only Myspace messages being “hammered home” here (except maybe their “curators” on camera) is an almost subliminal “This is Myspace” super in the opening frames, someone painting “Welcome to the neighborhood” on one of the white walls, and various “curators” saying “Check us out” on camera at the end.

Seth Fiegerman at Mashable writes, “It remains to be seen whether the company can change the public perception of Myspace.” But you can shorten the wait by checking out not Myspace, but the YouTube commenters who, from their photos, seem to typify the website’s target audience:

  • “So, MySpace is a white maze with no exits filled with out of control egotistical young people. Thanks for the explanation, it obviously is no place for me.”
  • “It feels a bit like a recycled American Apparel ad from 2011.”
  • “I just threw up a little bit.”
  • “This looks like nothing I wanna be part of LOL.”

“[W]hen we acquired Myspace, we were at over 90 percent negative [consumer sentiment],” co-owner Chris Vanderhook told mashable.com. “And we’re not doing any marketing…”

Whatever else Myspace gets wrong, there’s one thing he got exactly right: Whatever they’re doing with that $20 million ad campaign, it certainly isn’t marketing.

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