Yo Quiero Xbox?

Microsoft Corp. this week unveiled the details of its online campaign for its upcoming Xbox video game system, involving a promotion with marketing partner Taco Bell.

The effort will see Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft running a number of ads across a number of gaming sites, including CNET Networks’ GameSpot, and GameSpy Industries’ Mplayer Entertainment Network, which includes sites like GameSpy.com and FilePlanet.com.

The ads, created by the San Francisco office of Foote, Cone & Belding, actually began last week with ten days of “teaser” ads. But beginning Thursday, new rich media ads will promote a contest in conjunction with Taco Bell, a division of Tricon Global Restaurants.

Through the contest, Taco Bell will hand out special numbers that players enter online at the Xbox.com site, for entry into a drawing for a free Xbox. According to the company, an XBox will be awarded at each Taco Bell in the continental U.S. — more than 6,700 in all. Those lucky winners will actually receive their Xboxes before the console’s official release on Nov. 15.

The online ads include a five- to 10-second rich media “gateway” ad that appears when users first visit a site and shows an animated “gamer” driving his hot rod around the screen. Copy reads, “The Xbox era has begun at Taco Bell.”

The rest of the sites display banners, skyscrapers, Unicast Superstitial ads and Eyeblaster “takeover” ads on Mplayer sites. The Eyeblaster execution has the gamer and his hot rod zooming across the screen, saying “Don’t just sit there! Hit the road!”

Despite rich media’s heavy bandwidth requirements, FCB said the ads and the media buy had been carefully selected in order to provide the Xbox and the Taco Bell promotion with the necessary street cred among gamers.

The ads will run through Oct. 28. Beginning the following day, Taco Bell said it would launch an in-store “scratch-off” contest lasting through Nov. 25, which users enter by purchasing a chicken quesadilla or medium or large drink. Prizes include Xbox systems, a car, various cash awards and a $25,000 shopping spree at Best Buy.

“By combining the latest rich media technologies with savvy tactics and full-site sponsorships, Taco Bell and Xbox have created an engaging campaign that takes advantage of the depth and breadth offered by online advertising,” said Chris Heldman, national sales director for Irvine, Calif.-based Mplayer. “We’re thrilled to be working with two of today’s most prominent brands on a promotion that will appeal to our audience’s hunger for compelling online experiences — and to their love of gaming.”

In return for its promotional help — which also includes television spots and in-store displays promoting the contest and the Xbox system — Microsoft and a third-party developer will provide Taco Bell with signage in four upcoming sports titles. Microsoft’s “Project Gotham Racing,” “NFL Fever 2002,” and “Amped,” along with Activision’s “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x,” will feature the Taco Bell logo and recreate storefronts in various scenes in the games.

The promotional push — which taps into Microsoft’s promised $500 million marketing budget for the console — comes as another major competitor is gearing up for a launch of its new system. Nintendo will debut its new GameCube system on Nov. 18, and has announced that it would fund similar levels of marketing and advertising.

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