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'Squareeee!! i love you.' 'hey square...u kick ass!' These are actual messages on Wendy's' MySpace profile for Square, its box-shaped burger icon. Described as a 28-year-old male, the hairless mascot has 93, 212 friends linked to his site - and counting. Ok, so they aren't all friends - 'I like messing with you square.... Go fuck your self!' was a recent message - but if you're going to tap into online communities, better to be honest about what you are, says Mike Farrell, partner/director of research and strategy at Youthography.

‘Squareeee!! i love you.’ ‘hey square…u kick ass!’ These are actual messages on Wendy’s’ MySpace profile for Square, its box-shaped burger icon. Described as a 28-year-old male, the hairless mascot has 93, 212 friends linked to his site – and counting. Ok, so they aren’t all friends – ‘I like messing with you square…. Go fuck your self!’ was a recent message – but if you’re going to tap into online communities, better to be honest about what you are, says Mike Farrell, partner/director of research and strategy at Youthography.

‘We would caution any client that’s getting involved in that space that they have to let [users] know their true identity or make it obvious to discover,’ he says. ‘Wendy’s’ site is a perfect example on MySpace…and it’s doing gangbusters.’

Axe is another brand that has effectively tapped into the popular MySpace network, with its Gamekillers campaign, based on the notion that there are characters in life that keep the target (18-24) from hooking up with girls. In Canada, components of the campaign have included picking up a US-produced Gamekillers reality television show, which aired April 22 on the Comedy Network, plus the addition of a comedy tour in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver featuring Canadian comedian Ryan Belleville (it kicks off mid-May), and the creation of Gamekiller T-shirts, all of which are ways for the consumer ‘to experience the brand, and participate in the campaign rather than having a one-way conversation,’ says Baron Manett, VP of Toronto-based Segal Communications, the brand’s promo agency.

David Allard, brand building manager for Axe at Unilever Canada, adds that the strategy has focused on engaging the audience. He points to last year’s Axe U campaign, which involved the creation of an online community at axe.ca, as another example. ‘It’s [about being] part of their lifestyle overall,’ he says, adding that the brand is number one in its category, and that ‘people in the target consider Axe to be one of the coolest brands in Canada.’

Other Canuck brands have effectively interacted with teens in the Habbo Hotel, an online community developed by Toronto-based Sulake Canada, where teens create their own virtual characters. (The Hotel, aimed at teens 13-19, gets more than four million unique visitors a month.)

Most recently, Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution, in association with Sulake and CHUM Interactive, launched a contest on Habbo to promote the Antonio Banderas film Take the Lead. The

four-week initiative saw a virtual disco renamed Take The Lead Dance Hall, where users could link to the film’s Web site, and participate in a virtual dance competition. Ten finalist couples were selected by a crew of judges and squared off on April 5 in front of a live Habbo audience, an event that was broadcast live on a Habbo-run Internet radio show, The d’nD Power Hour.

EMI Music is another brand that has capitalized on the popularity of Habbo. In January, for instance, members of the band Yellowcard – and their virtual characters – checked into the Hotel’s ‘Teen People Terrace,’ for a 45-minute interview. The chat was also broadcast on d’nD.

‘I looked at the numbers and Habbo Hotel is one of the largest online interactive tools that kids are on,’ says Iris Piko, digital media and marketing coordinator for the label. ‘If the kids are already there, it just made sense for us to tie in our artists and have that relationship – to connect the two.’

In fact, during the show, more than 11,000 Habbos from Canada and the U.S. logged in, while Habbo Radio listeners reached server capacity at 4,000. And unique visitor exposure on both Canadian and U.S. sites during the proceeding weeks was over 1.7 million views.