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CNET Works to Become Tech Central

CNET Inc. has launched a $100-million ad campaign to position CNET.com as the premier destination for computer and technology information.

“The ever-present reality is ignorance,” said Annie Williams, vice president of marketing at CNET, San Francisco. “People really want the product that we offer, but they didn’t know that we exist.”

A Ross Cooper Lund study conducted in May showed only 4 percent of the online population recognized CNET compared to 41 percent for Yahoo, 22 percent for AOL and 14 percent for Amazon.com.

Most traffic that comes to the CNET site is via two company properties – News.com and Download.com. These visitors, when surveyed, were unaware they were on CNET’s site.

The company “spent zero” on CNET consumer branding and communications beyond PR, Williams admitted.

The campaign will attempt to steer all offline and online traffic that seeks technology information toward CNET.com.

“We have a huge opportunity to become the product leader in the category of technology … and to own the mind share,” Williams said, adding that CNET wants to be to technology what MTV is to music .

Encompassing print, TV, radio, billboards, car bumper stickers and the Internet, the campaign is slated to run through the end of 2000. But the first phase of creative execution will last the year.

Created by San Francisco shop Citron Haligman Bedecarre, the humorous campaign targets IT professionals, business decision-makers and technology enthusiasts.

Bearing the tag line, “The source for computers and technology,” the ads show the disparate ways people use the CNET network, and focuses on the breadth of CNET’s technology focused content, convenience and credibility.

The print plan includes The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, Wired, Scientific American, PC World, Computer World and CIO.

TV commercials on late-night shows on NBC, ABC and CBS, and radio spots use humor in an effort rise above the clamor of Internet advertising. They spoof the way people garner advice from the wrong types of experts in computer and technology product shopping.

The campaign is funded from CNET’s cash coffers and marketable securities. Such increased marketing expenditure will increase net losses in the current fiscal 1999 year, the company said.

“I hope that in the next six months we’ll double our brand awareness, and in the next 12 to 18 months break into the top 10 sites according to Media Metrix,” said Williams.

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