Social Net, MRM to Build New Ad Models

NEW YORK New social networking site Vox said it has struck a partnership with MRM Worldwide for the agency to help it develop a new social media advertising applications.

Vox is a social network launched yesterday by Six Apart, a leading blog software company that makes TypePad and Moveable Type. It hopes to differentiate from MySpace and other players in the space by appealing to a 25 and up demographic more interested in connecting with family and friends than meeting strangers. Vox lets users easily share their photos on Flickr and videos on YouTube, with a dose of blogging thrown into the mix. It parts ways from MySpace by offering five levels of privacy controls for each piece of information they post.

“The need we see is a tool that uses social networking technology and blogging technology as a real personal communications tool,” said Barak Berkowitz, CEO of Six Apart.

The challenge for Vox, like other social networks, is coming up with new ad models to fit the personalized nature of the environment. Berkowitz said Vox would look to contextual ad options through the site’s tagging function, but also hoped to give users control over the advertising shown in their spaces, which the company hopes would tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

“There’s a way to make these ads very relevant to these users and those visiting those pages, and the way to do that is to get the users involved,” he said. “That’s somewhat of a Holy Grail in a media space.”

McCann Worldgroup’s MRM has linked up with Six Apart to help it develop these new ad models. MRM CEO Reuben Hendell said early involvement with Vox would give its clients a leg up on how social media advertising will develop. While MySpace’s success has spawned dozens of social networking plays, Vox has the ability to stand out because of its ease of use and the solid track record of Six Apart, he said.

“We think it’s the best mousetrap out there,” Hendell added.

Many social media sites are experimenting with new ad models that fit their unique characteristics. Advertisers are establishing presences on MySpace and Facebook, either through a profile page or sponsored group, while YouTube is trying user-initiated video spots and “brand channels.” Berkowitz said Vox would experiment with different ways to make advertising fit seamlessly on the site.

“It’s those experiments we want to start doing where the advertising increases the user experience like in a photo magazine or fashion magazine,” he said.