Excite launches Web portal

As Excite.ca rolls out the largest dot-com advertising campaign in Canadian history, it is already bragging about its ability to attract Canadian Internet advertising to its upstart Web portal. Excite has booked more than $1 million in advertising for the 50-50...

As Excite.ca rolls out the largest dot-com advertising campaign in Canadian history, it is already bragging about its ability to attract Canadian Internet advertising to its upstart Web portal.

Excite has booked more than $1 million in advertising for the 50-50 joint venture between Rogers Communications and Redwood Calif.-based Excite@home. Advertisers include Canadian e-commerce veterans such as HMV, Indigo and Air Canada.

To fulfill the promise of delivering the eyeballs of Canadian Web surfers to those advertisers, Excite has launched a three-month, $6.5-million, multi-media advertising campaign – Canada’s largest Internet company campaign, says Jennifer Langley, Excite.ca’s director of marketing.

The campaign, created by Toronto-based BBDO, is concentrated in Toronto and Vancouver where Internet penetration is the highest.

Excite has its work cut out for it. Yahoo Canada is still the market leader with about half of the 8.3 million Canadians who went online in January visiting Yahoo.com or Yahoo.ca, according to Media Metrix Canada, which tracks online usage. Bell Canada’s Sympatico.ca site had about 2.1 million users, while about 1.35 million Canadians visited Excite.com, making it the 16th-most popular site visited by Canadians.

While Excite will attempt to pry away some consumers from its competitors, it is primarily targeting new entrants to the Internet who have not yet formed brand loyalty with a competing portal, says George Bell, president and CEO of Excite@home.

‘This is not a displacement strategy,’ says Bell. ‘The goal of Excite.ca is not to steal customers from Yahoo. The goal of Excite.ca is to grow in a marketplace where there are many uncommitted users.’

The launch of Excite draws a clear battle line between Rogers and Bell Canada parent BCE, which recently offered to buy Canadian broadcaster CTV to provide content for its recently formed Sympatico-Lycos Web portal.

Both companies are attempting to stem the flow of Canadian Web traffic to U.S. sites by creating a uniquely Canadian platform for Canadian Internet surfers and advertisers.

But industry watchers are skeptical that the current offerings will convince Canadians to jump on the Internet portal bandwagon.

‘The portal strategy is still largely untested,’ says Jordan Worth, a telecommunications analyst at Toronto-based International Data Corporation (Canada). ‘This is a battle of brand, a battle of billboards rather than a battle of bits.’

With the content on both Bell and Rogers sites currently available directly from the providers, or on other competing portal sites, there is little to convince consumers to use the sites as much more than search engines, he says.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group