PIONEER: MCI WAKES UP WEB

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MCI Communications Corp. turned the marketing world on its head with Gramercy Press, one of the first ad campaigns to include both traditional media and a full-blown Web site.

The site, which is still up but is no longer used as a regular part of MCI's marketing, featured the characters from the docudrama-style TV campaign and allowed users to "tour" the offices of the fictional publishing company, all the while learning about MCI's products and services including networkMCI and internetMCI. More than 2.5 million visitors from 15 countries entered the site, said MCI Director of Advertising William Pate.

MCI realized early on what some marketers are only now comprehending: Getting people to return on a regular basis is a key to success on the Web.

Darlene, Gramercy Press's office administrator, received thousands of e-mails a week, ranging from suggestions for solving office problems to proposals of marriage.

"We wanted to make the site truly interactive," said Mr. Pate. In fact, the site actually became its own publishing house, allowing Web users to leave artwork and poetry.

Fast-loading graphics, an area or plot that can change every day, cross-promotion and a customer-service mechanism are among the elements Mr. Pate deems essential for building and maintaining a successful site.

"A site must also be entertaining," he said. "If consumers are entertained they'll keep visiting, which will ultimately translate into sales."

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