Microsoft unrolling broad Sidewalk ads

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Microsoft Corp. this week begins its first broad campaign for MSN Sidewalk, counting on a similar theme running across Web, outdoor and radio ads to grab attention for the online consumer-shopping guide.

Sidewalk will get an estimated $10 million in advertising in the first quarter; $3 million to $4 million will go into outdoor and radio ads, with the rest for online promotion.

The campaign is the first since Microsoft shifted Sidewalk from an arts and entertainment guide in nine cities to a national consumer buying guide with links to Yellow Pages, retailers and marketers.

The campaign starts in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, the Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.; other markets will be added in February and March.

FOCUSING ON 25 MARKETS

Though Sidewalk can be accessed anywhere, Microsoft is focusing the ad campaign in the top 25 markets where Sidewalk sells advertising to local merchants.

Ads target busy, Web-savvy consumers who have little time or patience to shop, but who also "almost universally agree that they should do some research before they spend money," said Gayle Troberman, Sidewalk's consumer marketing manager.

The campaign, employing a similar theme across all media, shows how Sidewalk is the answer to all sorts of questions on where to find anything from the "biggest" TV to the "fluffiest" pancakes.

EMPHASIZING FUN

The ad campaign "gives you the sense that [Sidewalk] is engaging and fun, and it's not going to be a painful process," Ms. Troberman said.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., developed the offline effort, while Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, handled online work. Though Microsoft has consolidated other MSN work at Anderson, Ms. Troberman said Sidewalk at this point won't be moving.

The traditional effort is designed in large part to reach consumers on their way to work, since Sidewalk's research shows people are using office PCs to do much of their personal online work. Ms. Troberman said that was because of the long hours many people are working and the fact that many people have faster online access at work than at home.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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