RealTime IT News

Sprite Makes a Scene on MSN

Sprite brought its Miles Thirst character to MSN in hopes of hooking up with teens.

The soft drink brand, owned by Coca Cola, teamed with MSN's Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team to launch The Scenario, a promotional site within MSN Music.

Aimed at teens, especially males, The Scenario features 10 hip-hop DJs, as well as the Miles Thirst animated character that's also used in TV and Web ad campaigns. Site visitors can listen to song recommendations, then buy and download the music via MSN Music. "Thirst Radio" is the first branded radio station to appear on MSN; users can listen to regularly updated programming even when they're not in The Scenario.

The promotion features integration with the MSN Messenger IM client. Messenger users can add audio clips of Miles Thirst comments to their chats and add themed backgrounds and emoticons to the client.

The idea, said Gayle Troberman, director of Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team for MSN, was to integrate Sprite's "brand personality" into the music service. "We have all these top DJs coming together and making personal recommendations to consumers. Then, they get to reach out and share with their friends through the integration with MSN music and Messenger."

Geoff Cottrill, group director of entertainment marketing for Coca-Cola North America, said the interactivity and sharing enabled by Messenger was a strong selling point for using Microsoft's platform.

"MSN is thinking about integrating a brand beyond giving away a free download," he said. "[Apple's ] iTunes and some other services don't have the idea of connectivity and community around music. Through IM, I can have a conversation with friends or others who have similar tastes. It makes me feel a part of something bigger."

Troberman said The Scenario is an example of ways her team has responded to changes in how people use computers. "The laptop used to represent work and guilt," she said. "Now, I log on on a Saturday to see who wants to get brunch." As computers become fun tools, she said, they create a huge opportunity for marketers to connect with consumers.

Microsoft has been putting a lot of eggs into the home entertainment basket. In July 2004 it formed the Media/Entertainment & Technology Convergence Group to push its "digital home" concept, where the PC becomes the hub for entertainment, information and communication. Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is the media-centric OS Redmond hopes will be the brains of that hub.

Cottril wouldn't discuss details of the complete advertising buy, but the campaign will employ cross-network promotions and advertising to draw audiences to the custom site. For example, The Scenario will be featured in editorial headlines on the MSN home page, and the DJ hotlist will appear there as well.

MSN and Coca-Cola worked with Coke's media agency, Mediavest, for nearly a year to create the project. They kept Coke's ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather, in the loop, Cottril said. But all development work was handled in-house by MSN.

"Sprite, MSN and Mediavest were doing the driving," Cottrill said, "with Ogilvy participating and making sure the brand message was right."