'American Idol' Introduces New IM Experience

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"American Idol," the nation's most popular song contest on the Fox TV network, expanded its brand with the introduction of an instant messenger service targeting the estimated 25 million to 30 million weekly viewers of the show.

The American Idol Experience Messenger, as the tool is called, offers access to exclusive content like show-specific rich media, contests and features as well as marketing promotions. MECA Communications developed the IM service for "American Idol" creator FremantleMedia North America, New York.

"We believe the opportunity is to leverage the power of instant messaging for brands to tether the consumer to the desktop," said Sam Wick, vice president of business development at MECA, Beverly Hills, CA.

IM's speed and security have spawned 80 million IM accounts nationwide. Yahoo, MSN and AOL's AIM and ICQ today are the four major IM standards. MECA's interoperable technology lets users receive or send instant messages regardless of the IM they use.

The American Idol Experience Messenger capitalizes heavily on the TV show's content. Users can see unaired footage as well as plug into channels to connect them to interactive content and promotions. They also can participate in "Idol" chats and contests.

"We're tying in what's occurring on the IM with what's happening on the 'American Idol' Web site," Wick said.

Users wanting to buy merchandise can visit the "American Idol" store on the show's site at idolonfox.com. BD&A runs the online store.

From a revenue perspective, the "American Idol" IM is being positioned as ideal for advertisers in the entertainment space who want to reach the show's fan base. In other categories, Target.com and Apple are running ads.

A free download of the IM is available at www.americanidolmessenger.com. The IM will be downloadable even after this season's "Idol" ends its run May 25.

With this development, "Idol" becomes part of a MECA portfolio comprising Rolling Stone magazine, Build-A-Bear Workshop and Marvel Comics.

"It's a strong opportunity for people who are not necessarily at the ["Idol"] Web site on a daily basis, but who are interacting with the brand on a daily basis," Wick said.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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