NEW YORK Microsoft is hoping to convince young Internet users to rethink their browser habits with a campaign that offers to donate up to $1 million to charity based on downloads of Internet Explorer 8.
The company has hooked up with Feeding America as part of its "Browser for the Better" campaign that kicked off today and runs through Aug. 10. Each time a Windows user downloads Internet Explorer 8 from the campaign Web site, Microsoft will donate $1.15. The campaign would result in about 870,000 downloads based on Microsoft's $1 million contribution limit for the campaign.
"We really like the idea of providing a little good in the world when you download the browser," Ben Carlson, chief strategy officer at Bradley and Montgomery, the Indianapolis shop that created the campaign. "For the younger audience, it's a way to do a little bit of good by doing something easy."
It hopes to further goose the reach of the campaign through social networking tools. After downloading the browser, users are invited to update their Facebook friends to the program.
Microsoft is backing the campaign with a series of fake public service announcements created by Bradley and Montgomery, in conjunction with production firm Generate. The spots, directed by former Police Academy star Bobcat Goldthwait, show former Lois and Clark star Dean Cain explaining various made-up Internet conditions, such as F.O.M.S. (Fear of Missing Something). The campaign is launching with two videos, and more are planned.
Each video focuses on a specific feature of the browser. The "F.O.M.S." spot, for instance, highlights IE8's "Web slices" that update users with real-time information on eBay auctions, stock quotes and sports scores.
Another video tackles "S.H.Y.N.E.S.S." (Sharing Heavily Yet Not Enough Sharing Still), trumpeting IE8's "accelerator" sharing function.
"The millennial generation thinks they know Internet Explorer," said Carlson. "They've made their determination about which browser is better and they have a lot of sway among their parents and co-workers. This campaign is designed to challenge those preconceived notions."
Microsoft is launching the campaign as it faces increased competition in the Web browser market it has dominated since vanquishing Netscape in the late 1990s. Firefox and Safari have chipped away at its share, and Google is making a push to gain share through Chrome. Microsoft released IE8 in March with a series of new features.
The fight for the browser is critical in the battle between Microsoft and Google for Internet dominance, particularly since many searches occur from the browser search window. Google recently ran its first TV spots to promote Chrome, signaling it is a high priority for the company.
Microsoft still maintains a wide lead in the browser market. According to NetApplications, Internet Explorer maintains a 66 percent share. Firefox is second with 22 percent. According to the researcher, Firefox has steadily chipped away at IE's lead and under current trends will drive Microsoft's share of the browser market under 50 percent by 2011.