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In a breakthrough effort from a major advertiser, MCI today unleashes in cyberspace an interactive version of its "Gramercy Press" TV campaign.

Through a new area it has created on the Internet and is offering free of charge, MCI Communications Corp. continues the story of the characters who work for the fictional publishing company.

Introduced in a 12-spot series that broke in September, the campaign touts networkMCI Business, a software package for businesses of all sizes, including home offices.

The online version, while teasing users with new plot twists about the characters, also allows computer users to actually sample-and buy-the $99 networkMCI software package directly off the Internet.

"We're bringing the campaign to life by letting people actually test the software package by using electronic mail and its other features as they seek information about the TV campaign's characters," said John Donoghue, VP-marketing, MCI Business Markets.

Visitors to MCI's new "Gramercy Press" Internet area (address: see a graphic color display of the TV campaign. The ads lead into a blueprint of the Gramercy offices, allowing users to visit the area of any character and learn about their travails with office systems.

Users can explore anything on the virtual office walls, and can even send electronic mail messages MCI guarantees it will answer.

The TV campaign's interactive version, which will be updated continually, was created by a special high tech creative team within MCI's agency, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York. Creatives integrated the Internet version with the TV campaign, which gets its own new executions that break Nov. 21.

Users can download 10-second audio or visual snippets of the TV spots to their own computers. Examples include comments from the TV campaign's star, Darlene the receptionist, and her colleague Curtiss "The Curt-Man" Bruno, who were the subject of speculation about a possible romantic tryst by some of the company's employees.

To draw consumers into using its systems and software, MCI has created a virtual Gramercy Press publishing house in the Internet area where MCI will actually publish selected short stories, essays, drawings and poems offered by visitors to the area.

Users can also test the networkMCI Business functions that include office system software, faxing and marketplaceMCI, where MCI plans to offer office products for sale from business-to-business catalogs. Eventually, MCI plans to expand its Internet area to include other residential calling and communications products, an MCI spokesman said.

Separately, MCI last week announced MCI Friends & Family Mail, an online communications service for consumers that's free to subscribers of its Friends & Family long-distance calling plan. MCI is offering computer online services for electronic mail, fax and a daily news service, plus American Greetings cards that can be ordered online and mailed for $3 through the U.S. Postal Service.

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