In radio spots and newspaper ads headlined "First again," Prodigy last week began spotlighting the fact that it is the first commercial service to offer subscribers a browser to explore the Internet's World Wide Web.
Prodigy made the browser available earlier this month and said more than 10,000 customers per day are signing up for Web access. Among rivals, America Online is expected to introduce a Web browser by the end of the first quarter, while CompuServe said its browser will be available in the first half.
The Prodigy ads underscore how fierce competition has become in the booming online services industry.
"We want people to know that Prodigy is moving back into a leadership position in terms of technology," said Scott Kurnit, exec VP-consumer products marketing and development. But, he admits, "I don't plan to have a competitive advantage for more than 20 minutes in this business."
The Prodigy ads are clearly aimed at more sophisticated computer users, a departure from the company's usual focus on families. Full-page ads are running in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other papers. They will later appear in Newsweek and several consumer and computer magazines.
The Web campaign was not created by Prodigy agency J. Walter Thompson USA but by Wunderman Cato Johnson, New York. Mr. Kurnit said JWT remains the service's lead agency, but added, "Wherever the ideas come from, we will go with them."
In a twist, the ads not only note that AOL and CompuServe don't have Web browsers, but also name Microsoft Corp., which won't even launch its online service until August. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has made it clear the Microsoft Network will include point-and-click access to the Web from day one.
"Microsoft, as far as I'm concerned, is now in the competition," said Mr. Kurnit.
A CompuServe spokeswoman said the Prodigy ads will have no impact on the timetable for the introduction of its Web browser.
"It's nice to see them do something first," she said of Prodigy. "They've had a tough time lately."