Netscape's brand study could spark shop review

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Netscape Communications Corp. is staging a strategic brand analysis that could lead to an agency review for an account potentially worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Internet company, moving more aggressively into traditional ad media, is looking in coming months to launch its first TV advertising. That campaign likely would come from Netscape's project agency, Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York.

2 AREAS TO BE SCRUTINIZED

The analysis getting under way will look at brand, communication and marketing issues for the two areas on which Netscape is focusing: the Netcenter consumer portal site, and Internet/intranet business software.

"It's a process that's just beginning, but we understand how valuable the Netscape brand is and how important it is to manage it carefully as our business evolves," said Judy Logan, director of marketing com-munications.

As part of intelligence-gathering this summer, Netscape will develop a list of potential communications partners. Net-scape will consider various commun-ications options, including a review, at the end of the study, Ms. Logan said.

Budget for its year beginning Nov. 1 isn't set, but Netscape shows signs of becoming a consistent mainstream tech advertiser. It hired Kirshenbaum on a project basis to produce the company's first corporate brand campaign, a multimillion-dollar print effort that broke in late May to promote business software (AA, June 1).

CABLE CAMPAIGN

Netscape is believed to be mulling a cable TV campaign for business software, which Kirshenbaum would also handle.

Netscape also is expected to spend some $10 million this fiscal year promoting Netcenter on TV and in print, said Lynn Carpenter, Netcenter director of marketing.

If Netscape maintained these levels for consumer and business ads, the budget next year could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

The brand study comes amid rumors that a major media company may strike a deal to partner with or buy Netscape. Its stock last week soared 58%.

Netscape will further stretch its media plan through barter deals and promotions. The company this month is launching a sweepstakes with Hollywood studios, and it hopes the Netscape name will get play in movie ads.

The advertising shift is remarkable for a company that until now has focused virtually all its marketing dollars on the Internet. According to tracking service Adscope, Netscape spent just $10,000 on two ad pages from January through April of this year.

ADS BIGGER PART OF MIX

"Advertising is becoming a much bigger part of the marketing mix," Ms. Logan said.

She said Kirshenbaum will continue to handle projects, but said it wouldn't automatically get the account if a review is held.

"We're very happy with the work that [Kirshenbaum] is doing with us to date," Ms. Logan said. "If and when we do a review, there will be no shoo-in."

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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