MSN Offers Simple Message in Promoting IM

A new online campaign for Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger Beta is to the point: a one-page Web site.

The effort, from interactive agency AKQA, targets the youth market with the latest instant messenger product, a newer version of MSN Messenger. The site at, which debuted May 9, lets visitors download the instant messenger.

“It’s a statement more than anything,” said PJ Pereira, executive creative director at AKQA, San Francisco. “It’s not a traditional campaign. Most online campaigns try too hard. They saturate and have lots of banners and things. The message with this one was so simple we decided to keep it simple.”

Neither the site nor banner ads touting the IM have a logo. They use unique art to try to rebrand the MSN image as a chat alternative for the youth market.

“This is an attempt to bring coolness to the brand,” said Roy Schmidt, marketing manager at MSN Global Consumer Marketing, Redmond, WA. “The experience is cool, and we want people to share it. We are hoping that they’ll continue to put it on their blogs and tell their friends about it.”

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, MSN Messenger recently was rated the second-most-used instant messenger service in the United States, with 26,815,000 unique users in April. Leader AOL instant messenger had 46,058,000 unique users, and Yahoo Messenger drew 22,567,000.

The campaign, titled “The Way the News Spreads,” is built around word-of-mouth mentality. The art, developed by British artist Will Sweeney, reflects that. It contains many little depictions of sharing, games, video and audio, all the features that users typically get with IM. On the site are flying robots, singing policemen, walking cameras and trees with faces.

The actual site, though dense, is simply a tiled animated gif file. In other words, it carries layers of images that together show animated movement among characters.

“I love the fact that this industry is always changing and trying new things,” Mr. Pereira said. “We are using old-school technology to promote a new technology. The technology we used for this was available 10 years ago.”

The banners that link to the download page exist only on locations outside of MSN’s network and contain no logo or company name. The banners are running mostly on teen-focused sites like,, and

“We’re trying to raise a flag and say, ‘Hey, our product is not about us. Our product is about the fun you have more than the tools that we are providing you with,'” Mr. Pereira said. “The target audience is advertising savvy. They know when they are being marketed to. We’re hoping they get it as an honest approach.”

Mr. Schmidt declined to reveal early results on the number of downloads produced by the campaign.

AKQA is an interactive agency specializing in marketing, digital product design and e-commerce. It has offices in San Francisco, New York, Washington, London and Singapore. Clients include Nike, Estee Lauder, Visa and Samsung.

MSN, a part of Microsoft Corp., is available globally in 42 markets and 21 languages. The portal delivers programmed content through localized versions of the site. Windows Live, a new set of personal Internet services and software, is being offered alongside MSN. It began with an early invitation-only beta phase in November.

The site for the new Windows Live Messenger is part of a six-month campaign set to end in October. It may extend depending on the level of response.

“Our focus is really specific; it is a niche campaign,” Mr. Schmidt said. “There’s definitely a buzz among the tech elite that Microsoft has released a new Windows Live Messenger.”

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