Amid such demand, social network Bolt Media has signed three big-name brands to sponsor highly interactive microsites through the summer. Pages for Toyota Motor Sales USA and Procter & Gamble Co. are expected shortly, while Wendy's got a head start last week with a site, www.bolt.com/contest/boltband, which has already drawn more than 365,000 page views.
With its quasi-improvised member photos and layout, Wendy's Bolt Band looks similar to a MySpace page -- except that it invites members to audition for a band, which will ultimately consist of the best entrants as determined by guest judges Three Days Grace, a Canadian rock band.
And while Bolt presently draws far fewer eyeballs than MySpace -- 11.4 million compared to 48 million in April, according to comScore -- advertisers are paying well to associate with such potentially inspired endeavors. Bolt's integrated programs, like Wendy's and the two it has in store for Toyota and P&G, start at $75,000 and extend well into the six figures, said Bolt CEO Aaron Cohen.
"On the sponsored pages, people willingly come together to create things together," Mr. Cohen said, adding: "It's open to the imagination, but it's also structured with professional guidance, so what's being produced is worth something -- that's important."
Wendy's integration strategy
Wendy's, which is the exclusive site sponsor through this month, is hoping for a little of that creative magic to rub off. "Bolt amplifies the creative energy that has become a defining characteristic of this generation," explained Robyn Simburger, Wendy's director-media. "Wendy's partners with companies that integrate our brand with dynamic programs that foster community and collaboration."
Attempting Internet alchemy, MySpace has been busy turning its immense popularity into revenue. In the last month, it has launched a microsite sponsored by Pepsi-Cola's Sierra Mist for aspiring and established comedians, and entered a sponsorship deal with Walt Disney Pictures to build buzz for this summer's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
Wendy's has a presence on MySpace, too, in the form of a friend's page kept by its square hamburger cartoon mascot. It's not clear how much, if anything, the site costs Wendy's, but the site is hugely popular, with nearly 88,000 MySpace members signed on as "friends" of the site.