$50 Million 'Switcher' Campaign Lures Defectors to MSN

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NEW YORK ( -- Microsoft Corp. today fires the first volley in a $50 million print and TV campaign designed to lure
defectors from AOL Time Warner's AOL.

Ads break today in USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other major dailies; TV spots are in development.

The software giant's MSN Internet access service announced plans for a "switcher" campaign on May 29, just days after AOL hiked its monthly access rate by $1.95 to $23.90. The new rate takes effect this summer.

'An A+ rated service'
Microsoft is now offering three free months of MSN, after which time users will be charged a rate of $21.95 per month until 2003. The ad's headline reads: "Tired of AOL, Try MSN -- an A+ rated service." Ad copy touts MSN's shopping, search, instant messaging, music and financial news features and "fewer busy signals."

AOL has 28 million subscribers, while MSN has more than 5 million. Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, handles advertising for MSN.

"Customers are looking for an alternative to AOL. The price increase has been shown to be a catalyst for users to act. ... Our phone volume has increased 50% since the increase announcement," said Eric Hadley, MSN advertising director, via e-mail.

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