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Milking the Internet

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On her two official Web sites, Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old star of the Disney Channel's Hannah Montana and daughter of country-music singer Billy Ray Cyrus, is identified as "America's teenage sweetheart."

The sites (mileycyrus.com and mileyworld.com) are devoted to her impressive resume of show-business accomplishments, and are ripe with cross-promotional and merchandising links. To say they're popular is an understatement: In April alone, mileyworld.com, for instance, had 284,000 unique visitors, according to Nielsen Online.

The teen performer's popularity is catnip to advertisers. So it's no surprise that both of her sites link users to a microsite (bodybymilk.com), where her strong Internet presence can help a long-running print campaign, "Milk mustache" from the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, adopt to the media favored by one of its most significant target groups: teenagers.

"This past year is the first time we've significantly used online as an advertising vehicle," says Sal Taibi, president of Lowe Worldwide, which inherited the campaign from Bozell when it acquired that agency in 1995. "As we explored different ideas and content to reach teens, it became evident that the celebrity asset we had was very powerful."

As a result, MySpace was used to help launch the latest "Milk mustache" ads (including the one featuring Cyrus, launched last month, and one with Batman -- a tie-in with the upcoming Dark Knight -- released two weeks ago). Also, behind-the-scenes videos, such as one documenting Cyrus' "Milk mustache" photo session with Annie Leibovitz, are being posted on YouTube. And in a first, all PR for Cyrus' ad took place exclusively on the Web via her two sites and bodybymilk, the board's teen site, where users are offered things such as downloadable Cyrus wallpapers and skins for mobile devices, and a Cyrus wake-up call, also for cell phones.

Banner ads and a call to action on the print ads get people to bodybymilk.com.

"We don't worry a lot about pretesting the celebs or the ads because we know from history that when we run them they get seen," says Taibi. "Where we do think about the celebrity appeal is with the online stuff, where so much of it is voluntary or viral."

Kurt Graetzer, the board's CEO, adds: "We're up to about 270 celebrities in the 13 years this has been running and the board has rarely commented on the selection process. ... Except for the sports stars, I don't know if the national milk processors are familiar with celebrities who appeal to teens. I'll tell you -- nobody on my board knows who Rihanna is."

Perhaps it was this unfamiliarity that caused the campaign to take its time in bringing -- and then utilizing -- its assets online. The digital strategy was actually launched in 1994 with the low-key whymilk.com; it was refreshed in '06, this time as the destination site for milk's other major target audience, moms. (Whymilk.com now reaches approximately 62,000 U.S. monthly uniques -- a very modest figure -- per Quantcast.) In 2006, Lowe launched bodybymilk, which includes things such as contests and downloadable widgets, and reaches approximately 19,000 U.S. monthly uniques, according to Quantcast.

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