The Upscaling of Julia Allison

Julia Allison has signed a yearlong deal to make commercials for Sony. Let there be no doubt: This is a major coup for the fame-hungry "lifecaster." There, we said it.

It's still easy to sneer at Allison as an overreaching wantrepreneur; her NonSociety made all of $60,000 last year and lost one of its three partners this year. It replaced an option from NBC's national network, Bravo, with a deal involving NBC's local lifestyle cable channel, a much smaller venue. And Allison's Time Out New York column ended — so when Sony calls her a "columnist and Web celebrity" it's a bit of a stretch.

But Allison has come a long way from selling Dunkin' Donuts product placement on her blog and pimpage in Herald Square, and from getting paid to blog about a cheesy trip to Sea World. In the pantheon of brands Allison has been closely associated with — AM New York, Star magazine, Dunkin' Donuts, Sea World, New York Nonstop, etc. — Sony is easily the most distinguished. And the electronics company is putting her in good company, alongside writer Amy Sedaris, singer Justin Timberlake and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. Via national TV commercials, radio, print and online ads and retail display, Sony will hawk...

...the BRAVIA television line, Blu-ray Disc home entertainment, Cyber-shot digital cameras, alpha digital SLR cameras, Handycam camcorders and Sony professional high-definition camera systems, VAIO notebook computers and Sony Reader digital books

Allison is more of a Macbook and Canon and Kodak and iPhone/Kindle kind of girl. But if Sony — last real hit: PlayStation 2 — wants to connect with the Facebooking, Apple-loving young masses, it has to start somewhere, and spokespeople like Allison and America's Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker are clearly meant to help endear the company to the tech-savvy, style-conscious younger women Sony thinks should be buying its products.

So while reality television might be an saturated market, Alllison and her agents at ICM have stumbled onto a new opportunity for lifecasters, in a down market no less: Lending flailing tech companies a distinctly Webby buzz they hope to deploy against cooler rivals. For this, Julia Allison the crossover protocelebrity deserves her due. Now Julia Allison the aspiring Web media mogul has to finally show how her uniquely relentless brand of self-promotion can actually power a company (NonSociety) that offers long-term value to people other than herself. There will be, it is safe to say, plenty of people watching.