A Website Where Ads Are the Draw

USA Network Launches Didja.com With Eye Toward Marketers

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC Universal's joint venture with News Corp. for a proposed YouTube-killing broadband video site still doesn't have two key elements -– a name or a launch date -– but that hasn't stopped NBC's top cable network, USA, from moving forward on its own destination site, Didja.com.
USA President Bonnie Hammer
USA President Bonnie Hammer Credit: NBC Universal

Scheduled to launch in first-quarter 2008, Didja is designed to be a destination for consumers who want to watch their favorite ads off the TV screen in a social-networking setting.

'Logical next step'
"Didja.com is the logical next step in the changing dynamic between consumers and advertisers," said USA president Bonnie Hammer. "There's no doubt that commercials are major drivers of pop culture -- all you have to do is check out traffic on any video-sharing site. We want to own that watercooler conversation and become the go-to destination for on-demand advertising content."

USA is not the first cable network to create an ad-based social-networking site. Turner Entertainment's TBS has VeryFunnyAds.com, which focuses exclusively on humorous commercials both domestically produced and internationally made. Since its launch last summer, the comedy site has averaged about 233,000 page views a month, according to ComScore Media Metrix data. Those numbers are relatively low for a network that attracts millions of viewers on-air in prime time, but it's enough proof of consumer interest in viewing ads away from YouTube to encourage USA to take more of a mass reach approach with Didja.

Appealing to marketers as well
The site will have channels for "every category humanly possible in the world of advertising," said Chris McCumber, USA's senior VP-marketing and brand strategy. "This is another way for us to be able to offer advertisers an engaged audience predisposed to watch commercials, from Super Bowl ads to Academy Awards ads. We know when viewers are engaged or interested in seeing a particular ad -- whether it's services or learning about a product they want to buy -- we can provide a place for them to hear about the latest commercials they love."

Mr. McCumber and the USA sales team are currently looking for five to 10 charter advertisers with which to launch the site, across all categories. Considering "New Site" (as the still unnamed NBC/News Corp. joint venture is currently known) was able to scrounge up major advertisers such as General Motors, Intel and eSurance within 24 hours, there's reason to be optimistic that more marketers might be willing to sign up for another unproven project designed to compete with the YouTubes and MySpaces that have kept eyeballs away from the networks' own home pages.

"There's a lot of ways to drive traffic," Mr. McCumber said. "You can create entertainment pods on USA Network, or you can almost do something like Entertainment Weekly, like plug a new actor in a new campaign. You could say, 'Here's a sneak peek at a new Geico commercial,' or air a world premiere of a certain commercial on Didja and put it through an entertainment lens."

'Characters Uncovered' campaign
USA has dabbled in branded extensions of commercials before through its "Characters Uncovered" campaign, crafting mockumentary-style ads around popular ad characters such as Tanqueray's Tony Sinclair, the Orkin Man and the Keebler Elves.

Mr. McCumber said to expect a similar approach on Didja, as well as a "director's cut" approach to certain ads. "There's a lot of ways where creative teams can utilize the site to not only show their work but also test their work out," he said. "You could put on four or five different versions and immediately get a response. The 30-second spot is king sometimes ... but the Joe Pytkas of the world might want to put out a director's version of the next Geico spot."
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