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Viral Marketing Creates A Search Engine Star

Internet search is undoubtedly one of the most useful tools out there, but it’s never been synonymous with entertainment. Microsoft is hoping to change this – and maybe even beat Google at it’s own game – by launching an interactive search engine that aims to be both functional and entertaining at the same time.

Ms. Dewey is the Internet alias of Janina Gavankar, an actress who appears on Showtime's series “The L Word.” She is the star of msdewey.com, a new interactive search engine that runs on Microsoft Live technology. Gavankar plays a sassy live action character that guides users’ searches while also commenting on (and in some cases reprimanding) them.

Besides being a first-of-its-kind search engine, msdewey.com is notable because of the way in which it has been marketed – that is, that it hasn’t been.

Or has it?

Unlike with its heavily advertised launch of Vista, Microsoft took a “soft launch” approach with Ms. Dewey – it was essentially put on the web and left to grow on its own.

This concept, known as viral marketing, originates if a company thinks an idea or product has the power to stand on its own without the support of advertisement through normal outlets. The hope is that it will be successful and consumers will pick up on it and pass it around amongst themselves. Viral marketing is essentially a word-of-mouth advertising strategy for the YouTube era.

Donny Deutsch, appearing with Gavankar on “Power Lunch,” likens the viral marketing strategy behind Ms. Dewey to the beginning of television in the 1950’s. Once the foundation has been set up, he says, the next logical step is to figure out how to make it entertaining. The future of search, Deutsch says, will take its cues from projects like Ms. Dewey that use video interaction.

The site is one example of how “untraditional media is the new traditional media,” Deutsch says. The growth of consumer-oriented and generated content – the backbone of the “Web 2.0” phenomenon – is leading companies, advertisers and users to find new ways to get the products and services they want out into the marketplace – whether it’s on the street corner or the Internet.

But, Gavankar says, if a user is just looking for a “quick and true” search, their best bet – at least right now – is still to use a common search engine like Microsoft’s Live.com or Google to get the job done.


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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

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