By LAURA RICH
Gearing up for one of its biggest promotions since the $100 million-plus campaign behind Windows 95, Microsoft is meeting with agencies to plan a momentous launch of its Web browser, Internet Explorer 4.0, in the fall.
Several new media shops received requests to create what one executive at a contacted new media shop called an ‘on-line phenomenon’ as part of an effort to edge out main rival Netscape Navigator in the browser wars.
‘The launch of IE 3.0 was too much of a comparison to Netscape,’ said the executive. ‘It made (Explorer) look like No. 2.’ Shops were given a strict mandate to strike any mention of the No. 1 browser from any prospective campaign.
According to a January market study by Redwood City, Calif.-based Zona Research, Netscape boasts 70 percent of browser users, while Microsoft’s Explorer has most of the rest of the market.
The proposal for the nearly $1 million project was wide open for suggestions, but centered on an Internet-based event to take place in the real world, according to another new media executive. (The fanfare for Windows 95 included a massive launch party in Central Park.) The proposal asked shops to come up with event ideas and explain how they would present it on-line. Microsoft will retain other firms to carry it out off-line.
The assignment also requires tying in media partners, such as Time Warner, ESPN, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, Disney and PointCast, which will have channels on IE 4.0.
The review, headed by Chris Lye, product manager for Internet Explorer on-line marketing, includes Blue Marble, New York, and Digital Evolution, Los Angeles. A decision is expected from Microsoft this week.
Microsoft’s on-line agency of record, Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, has already begun promotion of IE 4.0 in its beta phase. Sources said Microsoft agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., is preparing storyboards for a TV campaign to launch in the fall.
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