HMV, Corby to offer free Net access

There's nothing like the sound of the word "free" to make people sit up and take notice....

There’s nothing like the sound of the word "free" to make people sit up and take notice.

And that’s just what marketers like HMV Canada and Corby Distilleries are counting on, as they dangle complimentary branded Internet access in front of Canadian consumers.

In separate initiatives, both companies are offering Web-head wannabes free Internet access and e-mail in return for the right to have their custom-branded home page appear as the user’s default home page., in partnership with Calgary-based free Internet service provider Cybersurf Corp., plans to begin distributing HMV/3Web-branded Internet installation CDs this week at its retail outlets in Toronto and Vancouver, says Sara Ross, the music retailer’s Internet marketing manager. While the CD will sport a price tag of $9.95 plus tax, customers who pay up will receive a $10-off coupon for, she says.

Cybersurf’s 3Web service allows HMV to highlight its new releases and special promotions on the user’s main access page. It also provides users a permanent branded link to – ensuring the opportunity to make a purchase remains just a click away.

Ross says she expects the co-branded HMV/3Web site will attract consumers who may have been reluctant to get onto the Web, those who are unhappy with their current ISP, and those who simply want free Web access.

While Ross says won’t be privy to consumer information gathered by 3Web, users will be asked whether they want to sign up for HMV’s newsletter – thereby opening an avenue for one-to-one communication.

Meanwhile, Toronto-based Corby Distilleries, in partnership with, rolled out its own private-label Internet access offering last week. Just as with HMV, Corby’s banner will be present at all times and will act as a hot link to the company’s Web site. The service will be promoted on Canadian college and university campuses via free co-branded installation CDs, says John McDonald, Funcow’s manager of marketing and communications.

Free advertising-supported ISPs are widespread in the U.S. – the largest, NetZero, is second only to America OnLine in terms of the number of subscribers – and they are now gaining ground in Canada.

While Canadian consumers have not had access to co-branded services before now, private label offerings in the U.S. have amassed a lot of attention. Recently, Kmart partnered with Yahoo! and a backbone provider to offer Kmart shoppers the opportunity to connect for free – a development that Michael Szego, a consultant with J.C. Williams Group labels "important."

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