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MySpace Streamlines Ad Sales; Unveils Self-Serve Ad Platform

Despite the uncertainty emanating from News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). about whether to sell or keep Myspace in recent months, the entertainment-focused social network is trying to keep things focused on improving the way its sells branded ad units on the site and becoming a more appealing internet publisher for creative agencies and media buyers. Following the rollout of its “social” ad units last fall, the company is now ready to promote a full slate of interactive ad units along with a reorganized sales team whose overarching mission is to build closer ties with major ad agencies, said Nada Stirratt, Myspace’s chief revenue officer in an interview with paidContent.

The plan to reposition the ad sales force along agency lines was hatched around November, Stirratt said.

“We had a fairly traditional publisher structure where it was kind of agency, kind of client and you would have three or four different people calling on one agency,” she said. “It caused confusion and clear inefficiencies. We pride ourselves on being entrepreneurial and nimble. Having four people calling on the same agency is not either of those.

There were no hires brought in as Myspace (the capital “S” was eliminated in the rebranding last year) worked to shift its ad sales focus and it was a matter of internal changes. The new sales structure involves two core teams in New York, two in Chicago, one in San Francisco and five in LA. Each core team is assigned an agency. In terms of hierarchy, the core team is made up of an account executive, who’s the lead sales person, as well as an account manager who can cover the less senior members of an agency. There’s also a campaign operations person, who is intended to serve as the go-between for Myspace and the agency from the start to finish, along with the strategist, who works on both the creative and account management side.

In an age of ad exchanges and demand-side platforms, the kind of hands-on approach Myspace is now taking is meant to ensure that more lucrative brand ad dollars get sent its way. Although they didn’t discuss it, the effort is also designed to show that despite issues in the relationship with parent News Corp., Myspace is still a valuable media buy and it has not become distracted by rumors about its eventual fate.

Apart from the new ad units like “dynamic HD,” which allows users to share large ads about movies and music that are intended to be viewed as just another piece of Myspace content (see an example here), the company has also begun talking about the Foundry platform, a toolset for marketers and media planners that will let them build their own brand communities on Myspace. As of this month, all Myspace brands have moved their communities to this platform. A video demo of the process shows one the basic parts of a Myspace premium ad unit being created in under eight minutes.

“This is true self-serve: we’ve added drag and drop functionality, an intuitive interface and building an ad now takes hours instead of weeks,” Stirratt said. ?ยจ

In addition to that, the company also has set up a “Usability Lab” headed by Stirratt’s former MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA) colleague Jason Witt, who joined Myspace at the end of 2009.

“About 80 percent of users determine whether they trust a website based mostly on their first impression,” Stirratt said. “So establishing an instant visual connection is key. A lot of times, publishers talk about the need for more creative ads, but they aren’t necessarily helping marketers establish that positive visual impact. So we created a Usability Lab partnering with MIT and Interscope that allows a full biometric read on viewers’ reactions to the visual product. You get hooked up to a monitor and it measures eye-tracking, perspiration and other visceral reactions.”

The point of these efforts, again, is to show that Myspace, once dominant before Facebook was even an idea, is to show the company’s relevance. Several ad agency execs did say that the company’s ad sales approach has gotten markedly better over the past few months. Now, it’s just a matter of whether News Corp. execs notice that as well.