'MeinSpace': Can Bruno Save MySpace From Cultural Irrelevance?

Sacha Baron Cohen Remakes the Social Network for Follow-up to 'Borat'

By Published on . 13

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Sacha Baron Cohen, or "Bruno," wants you to "freund" him on MySpace, or as he says as his Austrian alter ego, "MeinSpace."

Sasha Baron Cohen as Bruno
Sasha Baron Cohen as Bruno
The movie, about a satirical fashion journalist, will have close ties to the social-networking site, as shown by the de facto home page for the film, MeinSpace.com, hosted by MySpace.

Execs close to the deal say its part of a wide-ranging integration between News Corp.'s social network and the film, which is financed by Media Rights Capital and distributed by Universal Pictures and opens July 10. The deal is said to include an integration in the film and a media buy on MySpace, including a home-page takeover where Mr. Cohen, as Bruno, pulls back the page to reveal his own version of MySpace in his faux Teutonic lingo.

The troubled social network, which has been steadily losing visitors and laid off 30% of its work force earlier this week, has nonetheless forged deep ties with the entertainment industry and played key roles for opening films for all the major studios.

The "Bruno" campaign and integration might seem like a perfect fit, but execs close to the deal said it became more complicated than most. Mr. Cohen, as a rule, doesn't put products in his films and is said to have put the brakes on aspects of the deal. But he is also an avid user of social media, and the idea that Bruno would be totally into MySpace -- or "mine-sposh," as he pronounces it -- is organic to the character.

MySpace already debuted the film's restricted trailer, which contained some racy footage, and as part of the deal the social network will also get exclusive content related to the film. Mr. Cohen and the film's distributor, Universal Pictures, have kept tight wraps on marketing plans. Universal, Media Rights Capital and MySpace all declined to comment on specifics.

"There are a lot more layers to this," a MySpace spokeswoman said. "The way Sacha works is he wants it to be a surprise."

Mr. Cohen, who also created the 2006 film "Borat," is aggressively using social media to build buzz for the film. He's participating in an interview with social network Digg, where Digg users -- a probable constituency for the film -- submit questions and vote them up or down to be answered by Bruno next week.

In addition to his 330,000-odd "freunds" on MySpace, Bruno has 31,500 "friends" on Facebook ("Facebuch" in Bruno parlance), and more than 14,000 followers on "Tvitter," where his handle is @brunovassup, all enjoying regular updates: "check aus mein trailer!"

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