Up Front: MAD AVE
MAKE HAY WHILE THE EARTH SHAKES
Quicker than you can move a PC cursor, Prodigy Services used the Los Angeles earthquake to drum up business. In 30- and 45-second TV spots, aired the night after the catastrophe, the on-line service trumpeted the fact that its members were able to "check on a friend or loved one" by posting messages on Prodigy's bulletin board--when calling Los Angeles by phone was next to impossible. The ads tempted viewers to join "our community" by flashing an 800 phone number. Says a spokesperson at rival CompuServe: "I personally thought [the commercial] was tacky."
The live spots are part of an $11.5 million campaign aimed at reversing the membership losses at five-year-old Prodigy to its more nimble competitors, CompuServe and America Online. Prodigy defends the Los Angeles commercials as a demonstration of its ability to provide timely information.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER Paul M. Eng