WebTV puts $15 mil into first national TV ad push

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WebTV Networks begins its first national TV campaign next month, spending $15 million on ads featuring a cast of veteran TV personalities who promote the marriage of the Web and TV.

The campaign from Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., extends the positioning that the Microsoft Corp. unit began a year ago to promote the service as a complement to TV viewing.

"The offer really is to have an enhanced television experience," said VP-Marketing William C. "Chip" Herman.

40-PLUS AUDIENCE

WebTV is turning to personalities known to the 40-plus audience with which WebTV is most popular. Tom Arnold, Susan Lucci and William Shatner each will be in one commercial; Ed McMahon and Daisy Fuentes team up in a fourth.

Mr. Herman said WebTV is considering others, including Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus, for additional spots.

Mr. Shatner explains how WebTV makes it possible to pull up related Internet content while watching a TV program. Ms. Lucci talks about a WebTV feature that can remind viewers when shows they choose are going to start.

WebTV's first network and national cable campaign starts the week of Oct. 5.

More than 70% of WebTV's 400,000 subscribers don't own a PC, so this is a non-tech campaign for a non-tech Internet service. WebTV sells the subscription service, which works on WebTV set-top boxes marketed by Mitsubishi Consumer Electronics America, Philips Consumer Electronics and Sony Electronics.

Microsoft bought WebTV for $425 million in August 1997 and the family tie is becoming apparent: WebTV about two months ago added Microsoft to its logo, and the ads feature the new logo.

WON'T DROP RUBIN

WebTV, however, operates largely independently of Microsoft, and Mr. Herman said there is no thought of dropping Rubin Postaer and adopting a Microsoft agency and look for its ads.

Microsoft is handled by Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, and Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

"We've been working hard with Rubin Postaer for the past two years, and they have a good understanding of WebTV and its target," Mr. Herman said. "Microsoft is interested in WebTV being successful in this space and they recognize we have a quality [agency] working on it. It's never been a question or an issue."

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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