MySpace selects Weber Shandwick as global AOR

SAN FRANCISCO: MySpace has selected Weber Shandwick as its global AOR, signaling a shift in its communications strategy after the company pulled its PR in-house last year following a review.

SAN FRANCISCO: MySpace has selected Weber Shandwick as its global AOR, signaling a shift in its communications strategy after the company pulled its PR in-house last year following a review.

The company considered five agencies in a competitive pitch. According to multiple sources familiar with the review, the retainer is at least $40,000 per month. MySpace previously worked with Edelman and SparkPR.

A source familiar with the company said the social network's recent restructuring prompted it to seek an agency partner. Earlier this year, MySpace changed much of its executive leadership and cut about 30% of its workforce across the company. MySpace's internal PR function will mostly be run out of its headquarters in Los Angeles, said the source.

Enlisting WS also represents a new direction for MySpace's PR strategy, the source said. It was selected because of its experience with technology and consumer PR, in addition to its affiliation with sister entertainment PR agency Rogers & Cowan. MySpace will work with Rogers & Cowan on a project basis, mostly for major entertainment events or launching MySpace-branded Web series.

“[MySpace] wanted a consumer and entertainment agency – or one with a foot in both worlds,” the source said. Its future strategy also includes taking a more low-key approach to new product launches. For example, last month, the company launched MySpace Mail with an iterative, beta launch.

“The launch was very understated,” the source said, adding that MySpace's communications strategy will include more “modest” launches that focus “more on the product instead of hype” going forth.

Rivals like Facebook and Twitter will factor less in its communications strategy as well.

“MySpace sees many of those companies as complementary rather than competition,” the source said. “The goal for MySpace is to differentiate and communicate how vastly difference it is… [MySpace] also competes more with AOL and Yahoo for ad dollars [than with other social networks].”

Casey Sheldon, global technology practice leader at WS, who led the pitch for the agency, told PRWeek that because MySpace is older than many of its rival social networks, the company is facing issues surrounding revenue generation, security, and scaling that others haven't dealt with yet.

“And I think that's a story that has been overlooked by a lot of media in an effort to simply tell that quick battle of the Titans story,” Sheldon said.

“I think there is an interesting need that MySpace has and it is a complex need. They need to talk to consumers, developers, the entertainment industry, the technology industry, and they need to talk to anyone who could be a possible advertiser,” she added.

The account will be housed within WS's digital media entertainment practice, which is mostly based in Seattle. But WS's offices around the world will be involved in the business, she said.

“[MySpace is going through a restructure] and that's when PR agencies shine,” Sheldon added. “That's why you call on us – to help clarify, respond, define and make a brand meaningful for their passionate consumers.”

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