MSN has launched a promotional and advertising campaign in support of its MSN Music store, highlighted by an offer giving five free music downloads to anyone who purchases a track from the service. Th

MSN has launched a promotional and advertising campaign in support of its MSN Music store, highlighted by an offer giving five free music downloads to anyone who purchases a track from the service. The promotion -- and the giveaway -- will last through July 10.

The “Meet MSN Music” ad campaign is a wide reaching effort, with media buys in radio, print, Internet and billboards nationwide. No TV plans were included. The ads feature such acts as Gwen Stefani, Shakira, Stevie Wonder, Beyonce and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Microsoft would not comment on the budget for the campaign, but has been known to spend liberally on other promotions. When Microsoft introduced MSN 8 in 2002, its promotional budget was reportedly $300 million.

Until this marketing push, however, Microsoft did very little to promote the MSN Music Store outside of cross-network links throughout its MSN Internet properties. When it first launched the store, Microsoft said it had no plans to follow Apple’s marketing example.

“When we launched MSN Music in October, lots of people asked me ‘Why aren’t you running a huge marketing campaign? Where are your TV spots?’ Our top priority was making sure that we provided the highest quality experience for MSN customers,” says Rob Bennett, senior director of MSN Entertainment. “We deliberately rolled out the marketing slowly while gathering feedback from users to make sure the product was delivering what people wanted. We’ve gotten a ton of great feedback, our user satisfaction is extremely high and we felt that now was the time to start turning up the volume.”

Online, Microsoft will promote the service throughout the MSN Entertainment network, as well as with MSN Hotmail and MSN Messenger. The company also is tapping other online properties, with banner ads on Billboard.com, Ticketmaster and CNET, among others.

Print ads include newspaper buys in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, as well as Rolling Stone. Radio spots will air in these same cities and six others, plus XM Radio and Music Choice. Other efforts include outdoor billboard advertising, summer concert promotions.