Coke, P&G Test MySpace ‘In-Stream’ Ads

MySpace has quietly begun testing a new “In-Stream” ad unit, an ad that appears directly within a user’s personal “stream” of friend activities and status updates.

The new placement debuted on Feb. 10, with Coke offering fans a free download of the Selena Gomez song “Naturally.” Later that week, Procter & Gamble used the In-Stream ad to offer samples to women of  Scope Outlast mouthwash and a free Crest Extra White Plus Scope Outlast Toothpaste.

The new ad tactic, which is designed to harness the share-with-your-friends, viral nature of the site, should serve as a good barometer for MySpace’s new positioning as a “discovery” engine. That new focus was explained in detail late Tuesday (Feb. 22) at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Meeting during a panel session headlined by MySpace’s new co-president Jason Hirschhorn and chief revenue officer Nada Stirratt.

Originally that session was to include former CEO Owen Van Natta, who was ousted on Feb. 10. Hirshhorn was matter of fact when asked about Van Natta’s dismissal, saying that the exec was simply not moving fast enough.

But Hirshhorn and Stirratt took pains to assure the IAB crowd that MySpace isn’t dumping the strategy that Van Natta and company have laid out over the past year. They see the site as a place for entertainment fans to gather to interact not only with friends, but other passionate fans. And those groups of fans will help facilitate discovery of new bands, shows, content, or in the case of the new in-stream ads—advertisers’ messages.

According to Stirratt, when you “craft an ad that goes between people…It becomes an annuity.”

Numerous times during the panel session, Stirratt also pointed out MySpace’s still huge audience of “70 million uniques.”  In fact, amidst the company’s recent upheaval, MySpace’s audience has stabilized.

Though lower than its peak from about two years ago, according to comScore, MySpace’s unique user base increased by 2 percent from December 2009 to January 2010 to 69.7 million uniques, the site’s largest audience since July 2009. January was the second month in a row that the site’s audience grew.

Hirshhorn credited the site with becoming more agile in its development over the past year, more user-friendly, and more focused content wise. That has meant ditching the portal strategy that had been previously been adopted. “If you want the weather, don’t come to us,” he said.

Going forward, he wants MySpace to be know for product innovation as much as anything else. “We are an engineering focused organization more than ever before,” he said.