'American Idol' branding lands in Habbo

Demographic overlap is the driving force in the deal between the popular show and the teen-focused social-network service.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
Not Paula Abdul. Habbo

American Idol, one of the only television franchises that's truly interactive with its audience, is getting a brand extension through of a deal with the teen-focused social-network service Habbo.

The match makes a lot of sense if you look at the demographics of the two products: teens love American Idol, and Habbo is built for them. When I spoke with senior vice president David Luner of FreemantleMedia Enterprises--which owns the American Idol franchise--it became clear that the demographic overlap was the driving factor in this deal.

"We were looking for a virtual world" for American Idol, Luner said. None of the full-motion, fluid worlds like Second Life, were right for the franchise; Luner cited safety as the primary reason. Habbo has controls designed to make it a safe environment for teens. It's also a "two-and-a-half-D" world, meaning the graphics are blocky and the perspective never moves off the isometric. It certainly works as a framework for a social site, but it's hard to mimic dance moves in the system.

American Idol in Habbo also lacks snarky judges and singing, two of the franchise's biggest features. It does, however, let users engage in some "mini contests," as well as chat about the show. Users will also be able to buy virtual branded items that have appeared in the show, and they'll be exposed to crossover advertising.