When MySpaceTV started airing the celebrity fashion show "Who What Wear" early in December 2007, it was bereft of corporate sponsors. Created by Katherine Power, the former West Coast editor of Elle, and Hillary Kerr, a former lifestyle editor at the magazine, the show, like its companion website, focused on how to access high-style runway fashions and the latest Hollywood threads, and all without the celebrity snark that's made TMZ.com and Perez Hilton guilty sensations.
Their calculated manifesto? "We don't care who you date or if you eat. We only care about what you wear."
Discounts are always in fashion
But the two would prefer if you ordered something from McDonald's Dollar Menu -- maybe a side salad or a double cheeseburger? That's because the fast feeder has just started sponsoring their web show, advertising its value-menu selections at the start and finish, and sponsoring a special bonus video segment called "Ask a Stylist" that's specifically identified as "brought to you by McDonald's."
And as Ms. Power and Ms. Kerr have discovered, stylishness without churlishness or salaciousness is proving downright appetizing to advertisers.
"'Who What Wear' stands for high fashion from the runway and celeb trends, but it also has a really interesting value component," explains Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60 Frames Entertainment, the show's financier. "They break down trends in fashions so that normal consumers can get a certain look. That dovetailed nicely with what McDonald's is trying do with extending the scope of their dollar-menu campaign."
Anja Carroll, a director of U.S. marketing at McDonald's, said, "It is probably counterintuitive, because you might think the value menu is for the super-heavy user, which is more male, but there are a ton of products that appeal to women on it."
The hyped McDonald's menu also features lighter fare, such as a side salad, along with a crispy chicken sandwich and a parfait.
Getting closer to a well-heeled audience that can afford to spend in a recession is a high priority for McDonald's: As more customers partake of the value menu, high commodity costs and low margins can take a toll on franchisees, though systemwide sales at McDonald's rose 13.2% in February. A bifurcated menu that offers a mix of value and costlier products will be critical to McDonald's weathering an economic downturn, but so is attracting fashionable and affluent customers to that menu.
Said Ms. Carroll: "It allows us to reinforce our message of 'You're getting a lot for a little.'"
The economics of MySpaceTV also mean that McDonald's could also get a lot for relatively little.
Fashion fans far and wide
While stats from the new MySpace video campaign were not yet available (and MySpace did not reply to e-mails seeking comment), the potential reach of "Who What Wear" is impressive. In addition to MySpace, it is also being syndicated through Glam Media, an online network of more than 400 popular lifestyle websites and blogs that reaches 43 million users monthly. And the "Who What Wear" website alone currently gets 1.6 million visits a month, according to Ms. Power.
"You don't need to have 10 million people a week or it's a disaster," Mr. Weinstein said. "But it's not about lowering the bar. It's about finding people with a specific interest. Over 50,000 [readers] have opted into the 'Who What Wear' daily newsletter. That's unbelievably valuable. Given the enthusiasm of certain online communities, it makes sense they'd want to be [in the show]."
Surprisingly, despite MySpace's significant data mining abilities, Ms. Carroll said she's not so concerned about the granular psychographics of who's watching "Who What Wear" online -- she just cares that as many as possible watch.
"Ninety percent of what we're doing is awareness," she said. "You get into targeted tracking online, and things can get very expensive, very quickly. I'm not selling a $35,000 car; I'm selling a $1 double cheeseburger."