New Ads Pitch MSN Usefulness

A new television and print advertising campaign for Microsoft’s MSN portal looks to portray the new version of the site as nothing less than the most useful repository of information and services on the Web.

It’s a new take for the Redmond, Wash.-based portal, whose brand advertising to date has focused primarily on the sense of freedom it grants users (a tactic that nevertheless lives on in Microsoft’s Windows XP advertising).

But with the upcoming launch of a revamped site on Thursday, new ads designed by San Francisco-based agency of record McCann-Erickson aim to focus on particular features and tools of MSN, and how Web users can make use of them.

Previous campaigns touched peripherally on specific services — such as shopping or instant messaging. However, a spokesperson for MSN said that internal research had suggested that users want the Internet to be more useful in their daily lives, and that the site and its advertising had been redesigned with that in mind.

As a result, the campaign — for which spending was not disclosed — will feature a new tagline, “More useful everyday.” (Earlier, $150 million brand campaigns used “The Everyday Web” and “Make it Your Home” as its taglines.)

One of the new print executions shows the shadow of a man hoisting a bicycle on his shoulder near an Italian villa. A broken-line path connects icons representing various MSN features, such as Shopping or Search; the path ends at the MSN butterfly logo.

Copy below each icon reads: “Get online with MSN. Shopping: Buy touring bicycle. Search: Find scenic cycling routes in Tuscany. Online Buddies: Talk to other potential riding buddies. Shopping: Order express delivery of gel-padded seat.”

Said the spokesperson, “While the campaign is an extension of last year’s ‘Make it Your Home’ campaign, the new campaign uses the icons for visual identity for each service … depicting how different people in different situations are using MSN services to make their lives useful. … The flying butterfly throughout each ad indicates the seamless experience while building the overall MSN brand.”

The theme is reiterated in a 30-second introductory spot that begins this week, which shows the MSN butterfly fluttering around the portal’s various icons as a voiceover describes its range of services. In coming weeks, a series of six other spots — essentially video versions of the print execution — will debut on major networks.

Print ads, meanwhile, are slated to run in a spate of consumer publications, including Bon Appetit, Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Discover, Food & Wine, Family Fun and the New Yorker. Ironically, the buy also includes Yahoo! Internet Life, a publication associated with competitor Yahoo!.

At the same time, MSN said it would continue an earlier promotional campaign aimed at wooing subscribers of AOL Time Warner’s rival America Online service.

Those ads — which reprise an earlier offer of three free months of MSN Internet Access from now until 2003 — reads, “There are things you just grow out of. AOL is one of them.”

MSN, which said it currently has about 7 million Internet access subscribers, first launched the campaign in May after America Online raised its monthly access fees. Now, Microsoft says about 80 percent of its new subscribers joined from other ISPs as a result of the effort, while almost half came from AOL alone.

“Due to the campaign’s success over the summer, traditionally a down-time for new subscribers, MSN extended the offer … through this fall, along with the supporting tactical ads,” said the MSN spokesperson.

The two advertising campaigns — and Microsoft’s launch on Thursday of MSN 7 — come just days after AOL Time Warner unveiled the newest version of America Online in an online and offline promotional blitz.

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