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Microsoft Launches Marketing Program

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BOSTON--Microsoft today introduced the MSN Advantage Marketing Program, an overarching effort that targets large global companies and brand-building agencies.

Microsoft said it is initially investing $100 million in the program.

The effort from the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is two-pronged, targeting both Fortune 500 companies investing more than $20 million a year in marketing MSN solutions as well as advertising agencies and other brand-building companies.

The client-focused initiative is dubbed Premier6 Partners. The "six" refers to "performance," "portfolio," "platform," "profile," "products" and "presence," all of which Microsoft will seek to enhance in marketing terms for client companies worldwide through MSN branded media and a suite of "next generation ad products" to be rolled out through the year.

The portion of the program focused on agencies is christened the MSN Alliance Program. Digitas, Boston, the large independent interactive and direct marketing company, is the first announced agency partner.

The work could take the form of high-level management consulting, with Microsoft and Digitas helping CEOs and marketing executives design global strategies. Creative executions, such as Web sites, CD-Roms and various forms of online and offline advertising, could also be offered. These efforts would compliment and, in some cases, supplant campaigns from companies' existing agency or management consulting partners.

The program will to some extent initially target Microsoft customers and revolve around MSN-branded media, but Microsoft is not limiting itself in terms of potential clients or platforms, sources said.