REDMOND, Wash., October 25, 2000 — While the MSN network of Internet services is now the No. 1 worldwide Internet destination for consumers, Microsoft today is launching its largest global consumer advertising campaign ever, to tell even more people how they can easily get on the Internet and use MSN’s content and services to get the most from their time online.
In a conversation with PressPass, Rick Belluzzo, group vice president of Microsoft’s Personal Services and Devices Group, explained why MSN is the perfect choice for Web novices around the world and the clear alternative for Internet fans whose current online experience isn’t living up to their expectations.
PressPass: What is today’s launch of the new MSN all about, and why is it so significant to consumers?
Belluzzo: There are three important things happening today. First, MSN is now the easiest way for people to get online. We’ve worked with distributors like RadioShack, Best Buy, Compaq and Dell to make sure that people can easily find MSN, sign up, and then use the products and services.
Second, we have a new product, MSN Explorer, that is an exciting new way to experience the Web. It’s a very unique software product that combines the best of Microsoft software, such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, with the best services that Microsoft has delivered in the past, like MSN Hotmail, MSN Messenger, MSN Search and MSN MoneyCentral. This integral combination helps users get a more exciting and enhanced Web experience all in one place.
The third thing that’s happening today is that more and more companies and consumers are choosing MSN over other networks. Leading companies with top consumer brands will be working with us on both the content and the distribution side. On the content side, we’re announcing the new Kids Channel with Disney and Discovery that provides kids with top quality content and services to help them get more from the Web. On the distribution side, we have new delivery agreements with companies like MusicLand, H & R Block and Electronics Boutique. That’s in addition to our existing distribution agreements with RadioShack, Best Buy, Compaq and Dell.
PressPass: MSN is now the No. 1 Internet destination worldwide, having surpassed both AOL and Yahoo! Is that trend continuing? To what do you attribute MSN’s worldwide success?
Belluzzo : We’re finding that more and more consumers are choosing to use MSN. Over 210 million unique users visited MSN in September, which makes us the world’s most popular consumer network on the Web. We’re also the largest global network, with service in 33 countries and 17 languages, and we’re No. 1 in seven countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand and Mexico.
It’s exciting that we’re starting to see record growth. Over the past year, our
or the number of people coming to MSN, has increased approximately 24 percent, as opposed to Yahoo!, which increased its reach just under 9 percent, and AOL, which actually lost some ground, with its reach decreasing by 1.5 percent. Our access continues to grow as well, with Internet access subscribers now surpassing 3.5 million.
PressPass: As the world’s most broadly deployed portal, with services offered in 33 countries and 17 languages, how does MSN adapt to international markets?
Belluzzo: We have a good track record of globalizing as well as localizing software. That’s why we have the ability to build services like MSN Messenger, which is available in 26 languages and 46 markets throughout the world. We can ship that service almost simultaneously when we ship the U.S. version, and we can do the same thing with our custom Web sites and chat services. Our local subsidiaries drive alliances with local content providers to deliver relevant and compelling content.
PressPass: MSN has undertaken a comprehensive global advertising campaign to inform consumers around the world of the products and services available to them. How is today’s launch of the new MSN and this global brand awareness campaign different from past campaigns or launches? What is the goal of this worldwide campaign?
Belluzzo: This is the largest consumer brand campaign Microsoft as a company has embarked on. We plan to spend $150 million on global advertising, and we’ll be doing all sorts of great things for consumers — like rebates and making it easy for them to get online. This is the first consolidated MSN advertising effort in all our major markets, which accounts for the big spend, and $150 million is a number that has upward momentum as the campaign picks up more juice in more markets and we keep going with it.
The new campaign brings together the work that we’ve done over the past year and emphasizes some of our new products, like MSN Explorer, as well as existing ones like MSN Messenger. The end goal is to raise awareness of our products and attract more consumers to the network to experience those products.
Our campaign theme is
“MSN — Make it your home.”
It demonstrates that MSN delivers what people want and shows that it can easily become part of their lives. It is centered around the theme of MSN — your home base on the Web that helps you be more productive in life.
We’re also using lyrics from the Paul Simon song,
highlighting that no matter where users go on the Web, everything important goes with them.
PressPass: MSN Explorer is being promoted as a very consumer-friendly product that fits in well with MSN’s overall ease of use. How easy will it be for first-time users to familiarize themselves with the new features of MSN Explorer?
Belluzzo : MSN Explorer combines the best of MSN’s content and services, including MSN Hotmail, MSN eShop, MSN MoneyCentral, MSN Messenger and MSN Search with the best of Microsoft’s Internet software like Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, into a single integrated experience to help consumers get the most from the Web. It’s good for both new Web users, as well as for existing Web users whose experience is not living up to their current expectations. It also provides the easiest way for consumers to get on the Web.
MSN Explorer is software from Microsoft that helps users get online, providing them with a new and unique experience that only Microsoft can provide. Typically, people experience the Web today using a Web browser that takes them to a static Web page. For a lot of people, this experience does not live up to their expectations of what they thought they would get from the Web. MSN Explorer is available for free download from http://explorer.msn.com/ (in the U.S. only).
PressPass: Searching is the second most popular activity on the Web. How have you updated the MSN Search capability to make it easier and faster for people to find what they’re looking for on the Internet?
Belluzzo : We’ve focused on building a compelling service with new interpretive search methods that delivers fast and relevant results based on what people everywhere really want. This service is difficult to deliver in a variety of markets because it requires local content to be relevant, but as of today MSN Search is available in all 33 markets where we have a portal offering.
By using recent advances in search technology to incorporate human intelligence and intuition, we’re helping people get more relevant results. MSN Search even adjusts the information it provides based on the language spoken by individual users, where they live, and the general preferences of their region or nation.
We’ve invested a lot in building the technology, the categorization tools, and content to deliver a service that will soon be the leading search engine. Consumers are having success with MSN Search and they’re becoming extremely loyal to it — use of MSN Search has increased by one-third in the past six months alone. We expect this momentum to continue with the new features we’ve added.
PressPass: How do you plan to reach out to people who want to switch from AOL to the new MSN? Why are you confident that AOL users will want to make the switch? What does MSN offer consumers that other portals do not?
Belluzzo : We know that there are a lot of dissatisfied AOL users who are vulnerable to a switching message. Based on our research, as many as 50 percent of AOL’s users said that they would quit within six months if they had a better alternative. Users feel that AOL is a bit of a walled garden, so they’re not getting the full Internet experience. They’re also tired of slow or unreliable connections. And they get a lot of pop-up ads and content that isn’t relevant to them.
Based on this information, we’re trying to make it easy for people to switch to MSN. They can easily import their Outlook Express or AOL address book, and they can automatically notify friends of their new email address. We’re launching a new Web site with information about switching from AOL, and we’re providing a special toll-free customer service telephone number to help AOL switchers make an easy transition to MSN.
Additionally, there are 10,000 stores, including Best Buy and RadioShack, staffed by close to 40,000
“virtual MSN sales representatives”
ready to sell MSN Internet Access. Consumers have a one-stop shop for all of their Internet needs at the Microsoft Internet Centers located in RadioShack stores across the country, and as of today we are selling three different access solutions. Consumers can get demonstrations and order our broadband solution, MSN HighSpeed Internet Access via DSL or two-way satellite, or they can order the standard dial-up solution. The store reps are trained to help users identify their needs and ensure that they get the appropriate solution for their home connection.