Honeyshed set to launch

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Honeyshed, the much anticipated brand-driven shopping and entertainment hub from Droga5 is set to launch in beta today with, among other things, tips on bronzing, a cheeky pitch for Kiehl's lip balm and a demonstration of the wonders of padded underwear.

The site, created through a partnership between David Droga and his agency Droga5 and production company Smuggler, with funding from Publicis, seeks to engage 18-35 year old consumers with entertaining video content that the site's creators say "celebrates the sell." While Honeyshed isn't an e-commerce site, it seeks to promote and facilitate online shopping on behalf of multiple marketers by offering a "sexy, irreverent and fun," curated hub of brand information and culture.

The site was born from conversations going back two years between Smuggler co-founder/EP Patrick Milling Smith, director Brian Beletic, CAA creative director Jae Goodman (formerly of Publicis & Hal Riney), CAA's Jesse Coulter and Droga (who at the time was Publicis worldwide CCO). Beletic and Milling Smith had originally been mulling the prospect of a branded content channel, musings that led to an idea for an online space that puts the brand front and center and revels in the inherent entertainment of shopping. "Everyone is scrambling to do branded content but for the most part there is no real home for it," says Droga. "Most of the time the strategy has been to create entertaining content and then seed it, put it on YouTube, or elsewhere. So content is king but the king didn't really have throne. Our idea was wouldn't it be brilliant to have a site where you could be overt about the brand. The site gets at the entertainment value and the sociability of shopping. " On Honeyshed, says Milling Smith,"the star of branded content is the brand. People like to shop and when we started to talk about our demo and the types of products they're into we realized we could talk about these products openly and it was, in a way, more engaging and honest than hiding the product in a comedy skit."

At launch, the site will host about 30 shows (there are another 70 shows in the can) centered on product categories, like gadgets, beauty, denim and sneakers, that will be refreshed every few weeks. Visitors to the site will first be greeted with whatever video segment is streaming on the homepage at that time. Viewers can then choose to access specific videos in the site's archive by brand, category or host, engage in live chat and "stash" items in a shopping cart-like section. Clicking on items in the Stash section takes you to the brand's own shopping site where the transaction takes place. Users can also send videos to friends and embed them in their own sites and social network pages. In its next phase, the site will host brand specific shows. HS's architects say brands have been enthusiastic about the site's model (and a few marketers have already signed on for their own content blocs) but many are waiting to get a sense of site traffic and demographic before making a full programming commitment. What does that commitment entail? A typical scenario would have the brand paying for production of an hour's worth of content, which would appear in several three-four minute episodes that would screen for three months. Droga says the media model for the site is transparent—marketers pay for views and time spent and clicks through. "Our business model is engagement. Brands get to see who's looking at a video for the first time, who's a return viewer, what other brands people are navigating from and to—and the live chat. For better or worse it's like real time focus groups." All content is being produced out of HS's own studio in L.A., which now has about 40-50 people working on content. Back end work on the site was from Entriq and Schematic.

The question looming in the lead up to the site's launch has been what would compel a big enough audience of prospective shoppers to visit the site on a regular basis, and to stay on it. Droga calls it the "compound effect of brands coming together," comparing the site to a shopping district where a visitor knows the tone and direction of most of the stores. Milling Smith also points to the curatorial role of the site in attracting its sought after demographic—the site will be defined as much by what products aren't on it as those that are. "They'll come for a tone," he says, also pointing to the importance of the site's hosts and efforts to cast "presenters that people will start having a relationship with." At launch, among the most prominent hosts are a threesome of gorgeous young ladies not overburdened with clothing and some garden variety males (one of whom appears to be CAA's Andrew Ault).

The initial phase one debut will be supported by a partnership with Facebook. There will be a bigger consumer launch in early December for which Droga5 is working on an integrated campaign. While further details about syndication and how specific content will be pushed to viewers will be forthcoming at official launch, Milling Smith says the founders also wanted "to build a site where everything is something you're interested in. So people are not just sticking to things they're already comfortable with. We do that by earning their trust by being a filter and serving things up in a way that's exciting and palatable."
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