First Ads from ''Creative Connections'' Program Debut On MSN

MSN began running online ads for free this week for the Sharp Aquos flat-screen TV, as part of an initiative to encourage creativity in online advertising.

The online ads are a component of MSN's "Creative Connections" program, which the company hopes "will show the potential of creativity you can do online," said an MSN spokesperson.

The so-called viral campaign, designed by Weiden + Kennedy, New York, attempts to engage Web users to play a game involving finding hidden treasure by directing them to a series of different Web sites. For instance, users who go to an MSN page where there's an article about how to survive if they're trapped in a submerged car can click on an ad on that page and end up at a phony site for "auto aquatic extrication experts."

Once on that site, users can click through to a blog that purports to be by a "Peter," even though the bottom of the page indicates the site is owned by the Sharp Corporation.

Users can continue to click on links that take them to sites describing the hunt for lost, supposedly valuable urns. Eventually, said an MSN spokesperson, users who continue following the links will be given information about a Sharp flat-screen TV. Sharp also recently started running TV ads that relate to the interactive campaign.

MSN's "Creative Connections" initiative will run through the end of the year. In addition to Sharp, Revlon and Burger King will also participate with their own online campaigns.

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