How the Grinch Stole the MSN Home Page

LOS ANGELES — Universal Studios Home Video's partnership with Microsoft MSN for the video and DVD release of “Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas” drove more than 23,000 potential buyers to on the first day of the promotion, an MSN executive told attendees at @d:tech Los Angeles here last week.

The promotion took over the MSN home page Nov. 20, 2001, something the portal hopes to do more often in partnership with movie and television companies, said Joe Poletto, managing director of San Francisco-based MSN Entertainment.

“We're going to really open up the home page to media marketers,” Poletto said. “We haven't understood what's important to a marketer.”

Poletto did not disclose traffic numbers for the home page, but said that MSN attracts 300 million unique users a month.

The deal with Universal also included the takeover of a co-branded site, A link on the MSN home page to the co-branded site and a call to action to buy the video or DVD were other elements.

In addition, MSN had a Grinch sweepstakes and a Grinch skin screensaver downloadable via Windows Media Player. There were also Grinch first-run bloopers available for download.

Besides the traffic to Amazon, the November-through-holidays 2001 promotion garnered 333 million impressions across the MSN network. This included visits to the co-branded site and the MSN Entertainment area on the portal.

“[This] was the most traffic on any Universal Studios movie site,” Poletto said.

MSN, however, did not disclose how many videos or DVDs ultimately sold online because of the promotion. Nor did it track offline purchases resulting from the promotion.

“That's the next step for all of us — we have the tools, but quite frankly we didn't know how to go about it,” Poletto said.

“Our goal is to push toward you and not to collect that information for ourselves,” he said, adding that conflicts arise when tracking users interacting with editorial content who may have bought as a result.

Still, the movie fared well after its theatrical release. Poletto said 8.5 million videos and DVDs of “Grinch” sold since the movie's release, ringing up sales of $145 million. It was Universal's top-selling home video and the category leader in 2001.

Randy Malinoff, vice president of new media marketing at Universal Studios Home Video, could not make it to the show, but said in a prepared video that the intention was to go beyond simply banners and buttons.

The integrated marketing effort with MSN, which was Universal's lead online partner, had never before pulled so much traffic for the studio, he said.

“The big idea was that the Grinch had to take over MSN,” Malinoff said.

“The big idea was that the Grinch had to take over MSN,” Malinoff said.

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