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RealTime IT News

Cheerios With a Song

General Mills wants people to burst into song over its new Yogurt Burst Cheerios.

The cereal manufacturer launched an online promotion that lets people customize an animated character and then sing along to a tune.

Visitors to the site can change the hair, skin tone, mouth, makeup and accessories of a "virtual Cheerioke star." Simple sliders, icons and color pickers let users create styles from sweet to bizarre. The characters are created using technology from Oddcast.

Next, they can select one of three songs and sing along to music playing on the PC. The voice can be recorded directly to the PC with an attached microphone; alternatively, users can dial a toll-free number, sing into the handset, then save the performance to a server.

Once the performance is saved, a Cheerioke user can watch the Oddcast character sing in his or her own voice. The animation's head bobs, the eyes move and the lips open and close in time to the vocals.

Songsters can generate an e-mail inviting a friend to visit the site and watch the Cheerioke performance. In addition to the link and information, the e-mail says, "And be sure to start your morning on a high note with new Yogurt Burst Cheerios cereal."

General Mills is targeting mothers with the cheery campaign, according to Oddcast CEO Adi Sideman. General Mills executives weren't immediately available for comment. He said the site receives thousands of visits a day, and there are no plans to limit its run.

The Cheerioke site incorporates two different Oddcast technologies: VHost Workshop lets users create characters, while KaraokeStation invites consumers to sing and share their recording. Both are what the company calls "advertainment" tools, software that's fun to play with and contains a sponsor's branding.

In June, Oddcast signed with AOL to create customizable avatars for its ICQ instant messaging service. The avatars can be embedded in users' messages and exchange stock phrases, such as "I'm in love" or "Take a hike."

Oddcast is part of a team assembled by marketing agency Marsteller to consult with companies that want to use new media tools to connect with customers.