LibertyBay Cries Out for Justice

MRG’s Ads for Startup ISP Aggressively Take Aim at the Big Boys
LOS ANGELES–Wasting no time lacing into its rivals, is airing inaugural TV ads that show a disgruntled Web user demanding answers, Roger & Me-style, from his Internet service provider.
The strategy, developed by Seattle agency McFarland Richards & Graf, at first seemed “more aggressive than we were willing to commit to,” said client marketing director Jim Richards. “But [the ads’ main character] manifested himself in a lot of the people we talked to.”
The character, nicknamed “Ray,” is the star of a 60-second and three 30-second TV spots. As played by Andrew Harris, he’s a sly but good-natured troublemaker, prodding a receptionist and stone-faced management at fictional “Huge Online” to explain why he gets busy signals, logged off and generally treated poorly. In each ad, he and his cameraman are carted off by security.
“I just want something that doesn’t suck,” he moans in one ad –a phrase Richards said the company hears a lot in focus groups.
The tag, spoken in a voiceover, is, “There’s a better way online.” offers unlimited service for $8.95 a month, $13 less than America Online. That is mentioned at the close of the ads, but the focus is squarely on customer service.
“It’s not the dough that will make people change. It’s frustration about service,” said MRG partner and co-creative director Peter Richards.
The spots broke last month; print and radio are due next year. The budget is undisclosed.
MRG won the business in a spring review over other Seattle shops, including Cole & Weber, McCann-Erickson and Bondo & Remer. It was chosen in large part because of its agility.
“The creative was flushed out and in the can in about four weeks. They smoked it,” said Jim Richards.
Launched in August, the Tacoma, Wash.-based company operates under a business model novel for an ISP–leasing third-party infrastructure in order to focus on competitive pricing and customer support. The service is currently available in 16 markets, and the company hopes to expand to 50 by the end of 2000.