Netscape's ad campaign irks Freeserve

In rolling out its service this week, Netscape Online has stepped on a few toes.

The UK's leading Internet service provider, Freeserve, is miffed over suggestions that Netscape Online's competitors are "part-time Internet service providers", as seen on the new ISP's advertising.

Netscape Online's ad campaign kicked off Tuesday by warning: "Beware part-time Internet providers... the N is nigh" in full page broadsheet adverts Tuesday. Netscape Online plans to follow up with television adverts carrying the same message.

Jack Keeling, senior vice president of portal strategies for AOL Europe, explained the message: "We are a full-time provider because we are an Internet company and nothing else. We are not moving into Internet access from some other field."

Perhaps suggesting Netscape Online would be more reliable and easier to use than other ISPs, he said: "We will also have a more robust network behind us as we know that a lot of people get annoyed with not being able to connect to (a system) that is best in its class."

Freeserve is not impressed with what it interprets as Netscape's cheek. A Freeserve spokeswoman, clearly miffed at what the ad implies told ZDNN: "We were first. We changed the market and when we were launched there were certain companies -- it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out which -- who said we couldn't sustain our free offer. We are definitely a full-time ISP."

A senior analyst with research firm IDC agrees that to describe Netscape Online as the first "full-time" Internet service provider might be overstepping the mark. "From what I have seen, it is not offering anything new apart from an integrated service with AOL," he said. "Netscape and AOL are basically going to be playing the same role as Freeserve in that they are the brand rather than the technological service behind it."

Despite the hoo-ha, AOL denied the slogan was an unfair slur on other ISPs. She said, "The campaign's hip, irreverent tone makes the point that Netscape Online is the only free Internet service from a provider that truly specialises in the Internet and that the service's package of communications features, community and content is built on reliable Internet access."

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