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Prodigy: Turn on, tune in, log off

The online service is airing three commercials whose collective message seems to be that the Internet, to which the company provides access, isn't so great after all.

"Coke isn't it." "Nixon not now." "I don't want my MTV."

If these slogans seem counterproductive, so might Prodigy Internet's new television advertising campaign. The online service is airing three commercials whose collective message seems to be that the Internet, to which the company provides access, isn't so great after all.

"There's a whole world out there and you shouldn't be spending your life in front of a computer screen," said Prodigy spokesperson MaryBeth Clayton, summarizing the company's message.

Each of the three ads pokes fun at various aspects of Internet life--or as the campaign portrays it, Internet hype. In one spot, a character complains to another that he spent the weekend not online but "stuck playing ball in the park and having a barbecue and beers with some friends."

The campaign comes as the newly restructured company attempts to reposition itself as a "navigation capabilities" provider and distinguish itself from its main competitors, America Online and Microsoft Network.

"Prodigy wants to offer users the opportunity to get online, get the information they need, and get off," added Clayton.

She denied that this emphasis was an attempt to secure a particular demographic group but acknowledged one motivation behind the company's strategy: If more users are spending less time online and more time at the barbecue, Prodigy keeps its subscription revenue up while preventing its bandwidth from being overtaxed.

"It comes down to customer service," Clayton said. "I think Prodigy is going to find a great business opportunity if people can use the service without having to log on over and over again."

The advertisements, created by TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, launched today in 18 markets across the country and will run over the next 12 months.