Microsoft consolidates, moves MSN to Anderson

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Microsoft corp. is shifting its Microsoft Network ad account to Anderson & Lembke as part of consolidating its far-flung interactive group marketing.

The San Francisco agency picked up MSN and the Microsoft Investor site from Wieden & Ken-nedy, Portland, Ore., Microsoft's brand agency. Microsoft last year spent $24.1 million on MSN and $311,000 on Investor, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Anderson already had an estimated $80 million in Microsoft billings, including Web sites, games, interactive ads and developer software. Anderson now is sole agency for the Interactive Media Group, the unit that manages Microsoft's online properties, consumer CD-ROMs, games and hardware.

LION'S SHARE OF BUSINESS

"This move is simply a matter of the IMG folks wanting to consolidate their work with a single agency, and [Anderson] has the lion's share of the business already," said Jon Reingold, VP-corporate marketing. "We continue to be very happy with [Wieden] overall."

The agency consolidation follows a reorganization in which the Interactive Media Group centralized marketing for its online properties, such as MSN, CarPoint and Expedia, effective July 1.

"From a management stand-point, it should make our lives easier [to have one agency]," said Marty Taucher, marketing com-munications director for the Interactive Media Group.

One Web property remains at Wieden: Sidewalk, Microsoft's collection of city sites.

"That will stay at Wieden & Kennedy for the time being," Mr. Taucher said. Wieden is develop-ing a campaign to launch Sidewalk's next version this fall, and "we want to see that work through," he said. He declined to comment on whether Sidewalk will move to Anderson after that launch.

A key Anderson charge is preparing a campaign for Microsoft's redesigned consumer portal site later this year.

A PLACE TO STAY

While the portal and collection of services is code-named Start, that name probably will be changed, said Nichole Peterson, an MSN project manager. Start connotes a "starting point" or front door, when Microsoft really wants its portal to be a home consumers can return to, she said.

The new portal by the end of the year will take the place of three existing sites--home.microsoft.com, MSN.com and OnStage, the starting point for consumers who use MSN as their Internet service provider.

Microsoft is mulling various names for its global portal.

"We're looking for a brand that will be the Internet side of Microsoft and, more importantly, represent the idea of getting things done on the Web and really having a home base for all consumers on the Web," Ms. Peterson said. One contender: Microsoft Network. It is already "a strong brand recognized by consumers," she said.

PROJECTED TO INCREASE TRAFFIC

The portal will be the default home page for PC users who download Internet Explorer or install the browser off a Microsoft CD-ROM. That's a minority of users; PC makers that install Internet Explorer set the home page default to their own sites.

The portal will aggregate traffic that should move Microsoft up in the ranks of power sites, putting it in a stronger position against popular sites such as Yahoo! and Netscape Communications Corp.'s Netcenter.

The Microsoft corporate site still will provide product and company information, but Microsoft wants much of the consumer traffic to move to the revamped portal.

Microsoft is unveiling its portal feature by feature, using home.microsoft.com as the prototype. The approach disallows a splashy unveiling of an all-new portal, but Ms. Peterson said the transition will be easier.

"To radically do something very different is a pretty big step," she said. "It's smoother for everyone, for our customers and our advertisers, to roll things out as they're ready one by one and to increase services on the site."

PORTAL ADS TO COME

Though Microsoft now carries no ads on home.microsoft.com, it does on the two sites that will be folded in. By yearend, it expects to offer ads on the revamped portal.

Though Microsoft assigned MSN to Anderson, plans and budgets aren't set for a campaign that will start later this year.

"You certainly will see the appropriate marketing and promotion behind this site to match the significance of this project to Microsoft," Ms. Peterson said.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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