Thursday, June 12, 2008

Promised MySpace Self-Serve Ads Still on Hold

In November 2007, reports of a self-serve ad platform for News Corp.'s MySpace flooded the Web, but the News Corp. unit has yet to release it. Reached this week, MySpace said the tool, originally planned for launch by early 2008, is currently in beta testing and could be made widely available in late summer or early autumn of this year.

MySpace is testing the system with more than 80 advertiser brands. Like similar platforms on the market, the MySpace product provides customizable ad templates, making display ad creation accessible to the average mom-and-pop-shop and other small business marketers.

To ensure standards are met, the MySpace customer service team will review all ads built through the platform before they're unleashed on the social networking site's pages. Ads generated and placed in the system will be sold on a performance basis.

In addition to the ease-of-use factor, the promise of the product comes in its marriage with the micro-targeting system FIM launched on MySpace last year. The launch of that system was part of the company's mission to attract more brand advertisers -- and more advertisers in general -- to typically non-premium inventory. By combining user profile information with geographic and other targeting data, MySpace can to deliver more ads that are, in theory, highly relevant.

The do-it-yourself ad phenomenon is gaining ground as publishers build on what Google popularized through its self-serve text-based ad system. Most recently, The New York Times unveiled a self-serve display ad product for small and local businesses. Through a partnership with AdReady, the publisher is letting business owners create and manage CPM-based display ad campaigns to run on They can upload their own creative into the system or use its ready-made ad elements.

In May, News Corp.-owned Fox Interactive Media said it would soon launch a service for creating video and display ads targeted to small, local advertisers. According to FIM at the time, the CPM-based offering is to be accessible via local Fox TV station Web sites. Facebook and real estate site Zillow also enable self-serve ads that are mainly text-based but can include images.

The thinking behind these and other automated ad buying systems is that smaller advertisers who until now have limited their online ad spending primarily to text advertising can be enticed to engage in richer advertising if the process is simplified.

Word of the upcoming FIM self-serve product for local Fox TV station sites, in conjunction with the upcoming MySpace self-service offering, suggest the company might eventually build a DIY ad system to serve all its properties. Indeed, in announcing its new Audience Network division earlier this year, FIM indicated it may deploy its targeting technology on sites owned by other publishers in a broader network capacity.

That new division, created in April to handle performance ad optimization and operations, leads development of the delayed self-serve ad platform, in addition to dealing with third party publishers.


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