Microsoft's butterfly blitz on Oct. 24 will feature humans dressed in butterfly suits swooping down on high-traffic areas such as Grand Central Station and Central Park. The guerilla stunts reflect the MSN 8 campaign's theme, "It's better with the butterfly." Butterflies will also take to the streets to demonstrate MSN 8's child protection, junk mail mail filtering and personal finance features.
"This year we really wanted to bring the butterfly to life. Kids like it, adults like it, we wanted to show how MSN is working to make the Internet better in key areas -- communications, browsing and safety," said Eric Hadley, director of marketing for MSN.
Central Park concert
Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, is expected to attend a coming-out bash in New York, which will also feature a concert by musician Lenny Kravitz in Central Park.
Besides New York, butterfly
$300 million in marketing
Microsoft said it will spend $300 million to market MSN 8 in the U.S., doubling last year's outlay. MSN 8 will debut in Germany, France, the U.K. and other regions on a staggered basis shortly after the U.S. launch.
National TV and print advertising for MSN 8 breaks Oct. 24. A major online campaign starting the same day will run for five days, effectively roadblocking the 10 busiest Internet sites. "We will reach 90% of the available Internet audience," Mr. Hadley said. A direct-response TV campaign on cable and heavy radio promotion are also planned, he said.
Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, handles MSN. Avenue A, Seattle, handles online advertising.
9 million vs. 35 million
MSN currently has 9 million U.S. subscribers, while rival America Online, which introduced AOL 8.0 on Oct. 15, has 35 million, 26 million of which are in the U.S. The pitched marketing battle over the latest software upgrades reflects AOL and MSN's need to not only lure new subscribers, but also, perhaps most important, retain them. The battle will only intensify as both providers look to persuade consumers to upgrade to high-speed broadband Internet service.
According to Forrester Research, from 2000 to 2001, MSN retained 43% of its subscribers and AOL kept 79% of its members. MSN has said that about half of its subscribers have signed on through a "switcher" campaign, a more than year-long effort to lure AOL users to its service.
MSN subscribers will pay $9.95 a month for a "bring your own access" plan -- connecting through another Internet service provider -- $21.95 for a dial-up connection; and between $39.95 and $49.95 for broadband connections, depending on users' location. AOL charges monthly fees of $14.95 for bring your own access, $23.90 for dial-up and $54.95 for broadband.