MicroStrategy plays on Super Bowl

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It doesn't matter to Joe Payne if the average football fan is still preparing chips and dip two hours before the Super Bowl or has left the couch by the fourth quarter.

Mr. Payne, VP-worldwide marketing at MicroStrategy, an e-business services company, is targeting his company's five 30-second Super Bowl Sunday slots at the marketing executives who he's betting won't miss a commercial during the advertising event of the year. The company spent $2.5 million on the slots; four will be during the pre-game show and one in the fourth quarter of the game.

The TV campaign, combined with a print effort that broke in December magazines such as Business Week and Fortune, mark the Vienna, Va.-based company's first major advertising effort.

"We are the best brand that no one has ever heard of," said Mr. Payne, who came to MicroStrategy seven months ago. "I felt like the best place to make our coming out was during the Super Bowl where in one fell swoop we will have most of the key decisionmakers watching the game."

Three spots, which will cost less than $1 million to produce, have been created; it had not been decided if one, two or all three would be used. While MicroStrategy created the advertising in-house, Mr. Payne, who at one time handled branding for Coca-Cola Classic, used contacts from his advertising experience to find directors and producers for the spots.

For 10 years, MicroStrategy has provided e-business intelligence services such as data analysis and one-to-one marketing to companies ranging from Ameritrade to Xerox Corp.

While most of MicroStrategy's services can't be used directly by consumers, the ads depict activities the average consumer understands and might be interested in. In one, Mr. Payne said, a stock trade occurs from a wireless device. He said it might interest consumers and result in calls to brokerage houses about getting the service.

'JUST THE BEGINNING'

"We're advertising to the executives to say they should offer services to their customer, and creating a little bit of demand as consumers say they want to do things [we depict in the ads]," he said.

While MicroStrategy, which had $136 million in revenue for the first nine months of 1999, is hoping to elicit some immediate responses from marketers with the Super Bowl ads, Mr. Payne said the campaign really is designed to market the MicroStrategy brand.

"For us this is just the beginning," he said. "Rather than a roll of the dice, for us it's a well-thought-out strategic move."

Copyright December 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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