All was revealed two weeks ago -- or, rather, some was revealed, as the anticipated brand-driven shopping-meets- entertainment site launched in a very beta incarnation on Oct. 24.
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- to 35-year-old consumers with entertaining video content that "celebrates the sell." No, it's not an e-commerce site, but it does aim to facilitate online shopping on behalf of multiple marketers by offering a curated hub of brand information and culture. "Everyone is scrambling to do branded content, but for the most part, there is no real home for it," Droga says. "The strategy has mainly 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 to have a site where you could be overt about the brand. The site gets at the entertainment value and the sociability of shopping."
In phase one, the site hosts about 30 shows centered on product categories such as gadgets, beauty, denim and sneakers. Visitors see a video stream and can choose to access specific videos in the site's archive by brand, category or host; engage in live chat; share videos; and "stash" items in a shopping-cart-like section. Clicking on items in the Stash section leads to the brands' own shopping sites.
In its next phase, the site will host brand-specific shows. Participating brands typically will pay for production (all content is being produced out of Honeyshed's studio in Los Angeles) and then only for views, time spent and click-throughs.
So far the content and tone skew well to the left side of the demo, appearing to be squarely aimed at late teens and the men who love them. A corps of light-on-clothing honeys serve as the primary show hosts, and segments have included discourse on and demonstration of disposable and padded panties (those are two different items, FYI) and a three-way kiss test for lip balm.
Gender politics aside, the site does provide an interesting case study on brands as entertainment and will be worth watching as it evolves out of its (admittedly buggy) beta phase. With the premise now clear, the main question becomes whether a multibrand site like this can draw a consistent audience.
Droga says the site's magnetism will be in the "compound effect of brands coming together," comparing it to a shopping district where a visitor knows the tone and direction of most of the stores.
Alas, I'm ever so slightly, er, wide of the target demo but am an enthusiastic online spender. I check into my fave shopping sites on a regular basis -- mostly with no prompting -- and I have no doubt that I would do even more damage given some incentive -- specifically more product demos and exposure to a range of items I may not have been looking for. For a younger demographic that might identify more with the "entertainment" part of the equation, the impact may be magnified.
The key wait-and-see factors will be the range of products offered, content freshness and, of course, executional choices. It seems the site will miss an opportunity for a larger female audience if it hews too strictly to the jiggly gigglyness. To wit: padded panties? Surely there's more of a market there among ladies of a certain age than teens.
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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.