SPRINT EYES FRUSTRATED WEB USERS: NET PASSPORT SERVICE KICKS OFF $10 MIL AD EFFORT

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Sprint Internet Passport this week breaks a $5 million to $10 million print and online ad campaign that seeks to win over frustrated consumers on the Web.

The Sprint Internet service-provider business unit wants to score points with aggravated users by offering a connection guarantee to the many who have trouble getting connected.

Sprint promises users they will always be able to get to the Internet; each time they don't, users receive one week of free service.

Print ads are tagged, "Sprint Internet Passport: Do you really have time for anything else?" A shorter online tag is "Time won't wait."

RELIABILITY STRESSED

"We're focusing on time-stressed, career-focused people whose business and private lives have merged. . . . The message is one that says we understand there have been times when you haven't been able to rely on Internet service," said Lacey Roe, senior marketing manager for Sprint Internet Passport. "We think your Internet service should be no less reliable than any other household product."

The campaign from J. Walter Thompson USA, San Francisco, is the beginning of a series focusing on the best use of the Internet as a productivity tool. Over the next year, Sprint will advance the ad campaign past the connection guarantee to other ways Internet Passport helps its users make the most of their time.

For instance, a future ad will introduce the ease of customizing content for each customer.

Sprint Internet Passport currently has about 100,000 users with plans to "more than double" that number in the next year, Ms. Roe said.

About 10% of the total budget is earmarked for the online campaign, which will appear on search engines, sites with popular plug-ins and the DejaNews news group site. Sprint is running a test with KPIX-TV in San Francisco where KPIX will promote its own online site in TV spots and then recommend Internet Passport as the service to use to get there.

Ms. Roe said that if the KPIX deal is successful, there's a potential to strike

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