Even though early adopters are still chasing trucks in
search of high-speed cable modems, @Home Network and Motorola Inc. signaled that it was
time to start chasing the mass market when the two announced plans to launch the
category's first national advertising campaign.
The splashy consumer ads are designed to convey the message
that the Internet can be frustrating and slow, but not if consumers choose high-speed
Through May 31, the companies will run television
commercials and print ads in every market where the @Home service is currently available.
The high-profile TV spots will air during primetime hits
such as ER and NYPD Blue, and full-page color ads will run in regional
editions of Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated. The
ads started running April 1.
High-speed Internet access via cable is by no means
universally available -- even if you take into account other branded cable-modem services,
such as Road Runner and MediaOne Express (which will become MediaOne Road Runner sometime
But Jennifer Doyle, director of marketing for @Home, said
the company's cable partners have launched the Internet service in enough systems for
mass media to become an efficient way to reach consumers.
"We're still concentrating our media in areas
with the greatest footprints," such as Baltimore; New Jersey; Dallas; Nashville,
Tenn.; Sarasota, Fla.; and Orange County, Calif., she added.
Cable operators that offer @Home are also supporting the
campaign through specially timed consumer promotions and retail events.
"All TCI markets that have @Home will be participating
in some way," said LaRae Marsick, spokeswoman for AT&T Broadband and Internet
Services (formerly Tele-Communications Inc.). Depending on the system, TCI consumer offers
include $50 installation discounts, free installation or one free month of Internet
The national campaign is also backed by a "Sign Up
& Surf Sweepstakes." To help sign new subscribers and to encourage consumers to
learn more about @Home and Motorola's "CyberSURFR" cable modems, @Home and
Motorola are offering a free trip to Hawaii through the Web-site contest.
Gary Granger, director of marketing operations for
Motorola's multimedia group, said that as cable modems move toward retail
distribution, it becomes more important to make sure that consumers are conditioned to ask
for a modem by its brand name.
Granger said the new ads don't talk up the technology,
but they use consumer language to highlight the benefits of high-speed cable modems, such
as freeing up a second phone line for teen-agers' phone calls and tapping into the
unique audio and video content available on a high-bandwidth service.
"We're just beginning to suggest that
there's an alternative delivery mechanism out there," Granger said, adding that
he hopes to attract the attention of the large percentage of consumers who have not yet
subscribed to an online service, or who have not even bought their first personal
Glen Friedman, president of California-based marketing
consultancy Ideas and Solutions Inc., said it's an excellent time for cable-modem
interests to build their brands -- not only to maximize penetration and build awareness
for the category, but also to defend against the entry of high-speed services from
Doyle said @Home's Web site and toll-free phone
numbers will route potential subscribers to the right system based on their ZIP codes. If
the service is not yet available, consumers will be told so; if the service is coming to
their neighborhood soon, they're told that, too.
Friedman said it's important for operators to keep
communications with potential subscribers open until the service becomes available.
Mass marketing in any given market may be premature unless
a cable operator can offer its high-speed service to at least 50 percent of homes there,
said Bruce Leichtman, analyst with The Yankee Group.
"You've got to be going into markets where the
footprint is big enough so that you don't disappoint too many people," he added.
Doyle said interest levels have nearly doubled in @Home
markets that have already tested mass-media advertising.