Northern Light is not search lite

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Northern light Technology April 17 kicks off round two of its ad offensive, part of a $30 million budget that tries to build on the success of a $6 million campaign last year.

One of three TV spots created by Mullen, Wenham, Mass., kicks off today; the others commence in May with radio, print and online support.

Like the single spot that broke in September, new spots promote Northern Light as the quintessential search engine that lets consumers pluck just the information they seek and have it organized into online folders. Despite its ad efforts, Northern Light doesn't show up on radar when compared to portals with search capabilities.


Northern Light's goal behind its fall effort was to boost the search engine's unaided awareness from 0.2% to 15% to 20% within a year. The campaign moved the site toward that goal: Susan Stearns, Northern Lights' director of marketing, said unaided awareness was in the 5% to 10% range after just the first quarter. In addition, unique visitors increased following the campaign, Ms. Stearns said.

"We certainly deemed it a success," she said, adding that testing conducted in October, about a month into its first campaign, showed people saw Northern Light as "cutting edge and professional."

Northern Light (including both and URLs) received 1.48 million unique users, according to Media Metrix. "I'm not sure there is a business for just search engines anymore," said Aram Sinnreich, a Jupiter Communications analyst. "Search as a percentage of traffic at portals has been slowly diminishing over the last three or four years."


Northern Light could build a viable business by putting a private label on its search tools for third-party companies, Mr. Sinnreich said, but that would make consumer ads "like throwing money down a hole if you don't have a strong enough differentiator."

Northern Light does provide search services for other sites, but stands behind its positioning as a consumer brand in its own right.

"Northern Light is not a portal. We focus on providing the highest quality search experience to the user," Ms. Stearns said. "Search is starting to evolve as a separate category from the portals," she said.

AltaVista, with a heritage as a power user's search engine, is Northern Light's only direct competitor, she said, and even that is morphing into a portal.

In the spot that breaks today, a woman searches for information on "bird migration." Into her room flood flocks of birds as Northern Light delivers information on her selected topic. The tagline: " Just what you've been searching for."

The purpose of the latest campaign is "to have Northern Light set itself apart with its superior search technology and how we can deliver to you exactly what it is you are looking for," Ms. Stearns said.

New creative is less edgy and more "human," she said, compared to last fall's spot, which showed a man in a room bombarded by data from the Web.

Through the emotion-eliciting, visually pleasing campaign, "We [are] hoping the viewer could actually feel like he or she was part of the search process," said Rob Rich, senior VP-group creative director at Mullen.

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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