Site uses film to compete with other social nets

Studios have long used MySpace as a promotional tool to push their pics, regularly taking over pages of the social media giant to let the online masses know when films are gearing up to unspool at the megaplex.

And why not, given that MySpace is one of the few online destinations, outside Facebook, that regularly attracts 70 million people who are eager to chat about pop culture. An estimated 49 million viewers watch 387 million videos on MySpace in April, according to comScore, creating a lot of people who could check out movie trailers and other videos.

Yet with MySpace starting to feel the heat from rivals like Facebook, the News Corp-owned venture is turning to Hollywood to help promote itself.

The company continues to roll out the digital red carpet for movie marketing campaigns, but it’s also starting to seek the opportunity to be written into the films as well — or at least be pivotal to their promotions.

For Universal’s upcoming “Bruno,” MySpace launched MeinSpace.com as a way to create a fictional version of the company’s dot com for the comedy’s titular character, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

More importantly for MySpace, however, the website serves as the film’s official online home and is noted in all of the pic’s marketing materials, like its posters, print ads, trailers and website.

MySpace also bowed the film’s red-band trailer — a first for the company, which plans other activity around the film.

MeinSpace was supposed to appear in the final version of the film, which bows July 10, but its scenes wound up being cut.

The company will still be prominently featured in U’s “Funny People,” however, with verbal and visual mentions.

Although details weren’t disclosed, the site plays a pivotal role in the Judd Apatow comedy that stars Adam Sandler as a famous comedian who deals with a near-death experience.

U also provided MySpace with exclusive set visits, behind-the-scenes footage to show on the site, as well as interviews with the cast, that also includes Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann, and the chance to give users a walk-on role in the pic.

Universal noted the more than 70 million uniques that MySpace attracts each month as a key reason why it paired with the company, adding that those individuals “are entertainment enthusiasts interested in a shared moviegoing experience which makes them an extremely valuable partner in marketing our films,” according to Doug Neil, senior VP of digital marketing for Universal Pictures.

The active involvement of a major marketer in and around a film is the latest example of how studios are looking to get more from the companies they feature in their films. Having a popular consumer brand take a tie-in with a film and produce extensive buzz around it is invaluable when so many movies are duking it out at the box office.

“For both films, we’re offering our audience unique opportunities, content and promotions that have never been done before,” says Angela Courtin, senior VP of marketing, entertainment and content for MySpace. “The campaigns on MySpace are shaped to complement the films’ genres, characters and themes.”

Naturally, MySpace is hoping its partnership with Universal will help it land other pics, not only from the studio but every distrib in town, that it can promote in a significant way.

Such deals not only would put MySpace in front of millions of moviegoers, they would also contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Sites like MySpace have been eagerly courting Hollywood for their movie marketing dollars for some time, but the competition is especially getting fierce as the value of online ad revenue has been shrinking. News Corp. has been putting pressure on MySpace’s executives to come up with new revenue streams, even if that means making the company more friendly to studios other than Fox.

MySpace also has been looking for ways to compete more aggressively with rivals like Facebook, which in May surpassed MySpace for the first time in traffic by 23,000 people. It’s a scant margin, but a notable one considering how much Facebook has narrowed the gap on long-dominant MySpace.

“Integrating with movies affords us the opportunity to organically reach moviegoers and allows studios the ability to take advantage of our highly engaged users,” Courtin says. “The openness and social functionalities of MySpace provide the freedom to execute innovative marketing campaigns.”

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