MSN Goes Viral in Search of Boost

NEW YORK The comely woman onscreen is a far cry from a guy in a chicken suit. But Ms. Dewey is out for the same thing as the Subservient Chicken: viral appeal.

Visitors to can ask the snarky vixen any number of questions, just as they would a search engine. But Ms. Dewey responds with some ninja moves and not a little sass. Then, MSN Search results appear to the side. Interpublic Group’s McCann Worldgroup and Omnicom Group Web shop EVB created the Flash site, which echoes the Crispin Porter + Bogusky Subservient Chicken effort for Burger King.

Like the fast-food chain, Microsoft is using offbeat ads to take on a market leader—in this case, Google, which has a commanding lead in the key search advertising market. It attracted 45 percent of all U.S. searches in September, versus 12 percent for Microsoft sites.

Ms. Dewey is the product of Microsoft’s internal “buzz” group, which looks to build word-of-mouth appeal. “We try to find new experiences to reach people immune to traditional marketing,” said Sean Carver, a group product manager at Microsoft.

In another viral video push this fall, infomercial stars like the Swivel Sweeper’s Anthony Sullivan provide over-the-top endorsements for MSN search on its

Last year, Google spent $500,000 on advertising, while Microsoft laid out $20 million on MSN Search campaigns online and offline, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. But Microsoft’s monthly search queries in September were the same as a year ago, per ComScore, while Google’s were up 57 percent.

“We’re two years into our search service,” Carver noted. “It’s a long battle. We’re just at the beginning of it.”