NEW YORK Honeyshed, the closely watched endeavor from Publicis Groupe, Droga5 and Smuggler, is shutting down after Publicis declined to invest more money in the venture.
Honeyshed's management and Publicis jointly agreed to end the venture, according to Honeyshed CEO Steve Greifer. It will cease operations immediately and the site will come down this week or next, he said. The company, which operated independently, will lay off its 10 full-time employees.
The site, billed by David Droga as "QVC meets MTV," never found much of an audience in its 15 months of existence.
The idea behind Honeyshed: get young, attractive hosts to overtly "celebrate the sell" by talking up advertiser products. Honeyshed attracted advertisers like Puma to try out the service.
Honeyshed also sought to plow new ground with its business model. Droga5 hatched the idea for the site and provided creative direction, but it was not part of a client brief. Instead, the shop wanted to build Honeyshed out as an independent media property.
Critics lambasted its hipster mentality and often bizarre content.
Publicis brought in Greifer, a former Digitas executive, to turn the creative venture into a thriving business, but the deepening economic recession led to the decision to end Honeyshed just two months after it relaunched. Greifer called the decision "disappointing" but the result of bad timing.
"If we had had a different economic environment we would have had a better chance of success to predict when we'd be cash positive," Greifer said. "We'd have a better reaction from the advertising and brand community."
At its relaunch in November, Honeyshed projected the site to reach 550,000 visitors a month after launch, 1 million by February and 2 million at the end of 2009. All told, Honeyshed promised advertisers it would generate 9 million content views in that time.
According to comScore, Honeyshed drew 117,000 visitors in December before trailing off the next month. Griefer said the site drew about 15,000 unique visitors per day after the relaunch, supported by a heavy marketing campaign, but saw those numbers dwindle when it cut back on advertising.
"The reception we got in terms of the insights of marketing to Generation Y and the combination of entertainment and commerce and social networking was good," Griefer said. "All the themes behind Honeyshed were well received. The issues we ran into were budget issues, timing issues and to some degree cost issues."