Launching Axient Communications
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Launching Axient Communications

Axient Communications, a premier provider of media-quality Internet experiences and services, chartered MS&L to implement a strategic marketing communications program and public relations launch campaign, creating awareness and gaining visibility for the

Paul Holmes

Axient Communications, a premier provider of media-quality Internet experiences and services, chartered MS&L/Los Angeles and sister office MS&L Global Technology/Westlake Village to implement a strategic marketing communications program and public relations launch campaign.  In a relatively short timeframe, the two offices were highly successful in creating awareness and gaining visibility for the new Axient brand, as well as the revolutionary media-quality Octane experience among potential customers (content providers and commerce companies, enterprise customers, and access providers), broadband Internet users and industry influencers surrounding Axient’s company launch.  These objectives would be measured against customer wins, competitive response, positive media coverage and analyst endorsements.


From participation in strategic meetings with Axient’s partners and key influencers, MS&L learned that it needed to create credibility and preference behind a company and most of all, behind an Internet experience that was new to the content delivery marketplace, as well as to Internet users.  But the team faced a tremendous challenge – no “demo” was available of the Octane experience Axient was trying to sell.  This was due to a variety of reasons, including only one content provider ( would be on Axient’s network at the time the company launched; the Octane experience would only be available to broadband Internet users with access to an Axient-partnered ISP (only about 30,000 homes); and, only four ISPs would be “on-network” prior to the start of the Olympics.

The team needed to figure out how to get targeted media and industry analysts interested in something unavailable to experience.  The two MS&L offices came to the following consensus simultaneously:  it would “name drop.”  The account team would gain awareness for Axient and Octane by announcing Axient’s exclusive partnership with and other noteworthy relationships.


The Internet has emerged as one of the most powerful transformational forces of the second half of the twentieth century.  As consumer demands for higher-quality, multi-media experiences on the Internet increased, content providers started to look for new solutions to enhance their Web sites.

Axient’s competitors such as Akamai, iBeam, Digital Island and Enron were marketing services to content providers which offered more interactive functions for their Web sites, including streaming video and audio.  The problem was that data was still delivered via the congested public Internet, causing long download times and choppy, postage-stamp-sized images.  By partnering with Williams Communications, Axient was able to build its own next-generation fiber optic network that bypasses the public Internet and delivers content directly to the end-user (less congestion means higher quality content that can be delivered much faster).  The result was the Octane experience, offering full-screen, high-resolution video, clear stereo sound and fast text and graphics.

Our industry research revealed that Axient was late to the market, as many of the larger content providers had already partnered with Akamai, Enron and others, and held long-term contracts for streaming media services (we relied on information made available by MS&L’s Knowledge Center housed in New York, the Internet, trade and business publications, etc.).  Through analyst pre-briefings, on-site branding sessions and extensive research of competitors’ offerings, we found that the Octane media-quality Internet experience was unique and occupied a niche of its own.  Additional research showed us that Axient’s potential customers were likely to be influenced by media and industry analysts, as well the demands of Internet users.  To debut Octane, Axient was selected by to stream Olympic competition highlights and athlete features to residential broadband Internet users within the continental U.S.

Based on our knowledge and research, the team put into action the following strategies to achieve its objectives of creating awareness and gaining visibility for the Axient brand and the OctaneSM media-quality experience:

·         Position Axient’s executives as thought-leaders and visionaries in the industry by increasing visibility and credibility of the Axient leadership team in both traditional technology/business environments and non-traditional environments

·         Gain visibility for the new Axient brand and dimensionalize the new end-user experience in all media (business and general press, broadcast & print) and in end-users’ lives

·         Impact pop culture and leverage relevant stories, messages and topics that appeal to Axient’s customers, as well as the general public

·         Gain media interest by relevantly leveraging status as exclusive streaming media provider for


The team expanded name recognition for Axient among target groups and established the start-up as a next-generation Internet company by leveraging its best-of-category partners and customers (such as  MS&L used Axient’s big-name investors (Cisco Systems, Williams Communications, etc.) to position Axient as a hot new infrastructure player in for the long haul.  We further broadened media impact by leveraging the executive team’s leadership perspective on key trends to put a face to Axient as well as establish credibility.

By creating a story for the media about Axient’s unique and exclusive partnership with, the team was able to create preference for Axient among potential customers and partners.  And by positioning streaming Olympic highlights as an Octane-only experience, the team created a buzz about the experience, making it a “must have.”


The effective execution of the Axient program required MS&L/Los Angeles and MS&L Global Technology/Westlake Village to work as a cohesive team.  MS&L/WLV employed its expertise in the B2B market and in high technology, while LA added additional creativity with consumer angles to provide Axient with a well-rounded public relations campaign.  We immediately appointed one point-person at each office.  These two employees, who became the client’s daily contacts, shared information at least once a day and disseminated all relevant information to team members in their respective offices.  Additionally, the two offices held regular conference calls and, thanks to our IT experts, were able to share computer documents as if they were in one location.  The team executed the following tactics:

·         Advised and assisted Axient with public relations efforts associated with launch and proposed event.  Upon learning that the Octane experience could not be demonstrated at a launch event scheduled for August in New York, the team advised Axient to postpone the event and soft-launched the company on August 7, 2000 with two major announcements.  One release announced the company and the other announced Axient as the exclusive provider of streaming media services for, and the only company approved by the IOC to stream Olympic highlights over the Internet.  We pre-briefed a handful of top-tier media on Friday, August 4, 2000, which resulted in a story by Janet Kornblum in USA Today on the day Axient launched.  (Note: this was a real coup, as MS&L did not get the green light to pre-brief any media until just before 5 p.m. ET on August 4.)

·         Provided strategic counsel surrounding Axient’s launch and customer announcements.  After Axient’s launch, we supported communications with 11 of Axient’s partners and customers around announcements.  Additionally, under our counsel, Axient began issuing releases every 1 – 2 weeks that bundled one major customer announcement with 1 – 2 secondary customer announcements in one press release.  We chose this tactic to avoid “the boy who cried wolf” syndrome.

·         Developed Axient’s key messages and corporate Q&A which provided Axient with “one voice” during the launch.  

·         Coordinated and facilitated in-depth media training for Axient’s executive team.

·         Coordinated and facilitated executive photo shoots.

·         Developed and issued all collateral surrounding Axient’s launch and announcement.  (Note: due to last-minute changes to press materials, and the client’s request to recreate the letterhead for the announcement the Friday before launch, the team worked all day Saturday, August 5, to get 700 press kits dropped in Fed Ex before 5 p.m. to ensure August 7 delivery.)

·         Scheduled and facilitated multi-city analyst tour in coordination with Axient’s launch.  The team booked and staffed two days in Boston and one day in San Francisco during August 2000.  Axient’s key spokespeople briefed 17 key industry analysts (at nine firms) and MS&L garnered a third-party reference from every firm briefed.

·         Coordinated and facilitated more than 35 interviews with key media and Axient’s executive team.  Key outlets included  Forbes, Washington Post, USA Today, eCompany Now, PC World, and ZDTV, among others.

·         Generated a sustained flow of media coverage following Axient’s launch.


Some say that a picture is worth a thousand words – we say that no picture (as no demo was available) is worth 4,290,166,785 impressions.  The efforts of the two MS&L offices resulted in more than 250 print and online placements, creating more than 4 billion impressions during a 10-week period.  Key placements include coverage in The Wall Street Journal, two separate stories in USA Today, Bloomberg, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, U.S. News & World Report, Investor’s Business Daily, San Francisco Chronicle, MSNBC, Internet Week, InformationWeek and Dow Jones wire, among others.

Axient’s return on investment was substantial.  During the six-month period, $375,400 was spent on public relations support, while an equal amount of ad space would have cost $2,781,228, an ROI ratio of over 7:1.

Perhaps another indication of our success is the fact that Nielsen Net Ratings rated as the Global Gold Winner for the Sydney Games, with 6 million unique visitors and over 1 billion consumer impressions for Olympic sponsors.

Additionally, to create awareness and gain visibility for the new company, the team secured meetings with 17 top analysts at 9 key U.S. industry analyst firms, including Aberdeen Group, Yankee Group, Forrester, Giga Information Group, Hurwitz Group, DFC Intelligence, IDC, Cahner’s In-Stat Group and Jupiter.  Further, we garnered third-party references from each of these analysts firms, and secured extensive coverage for Axient in two analysts’ reports, including Aberdeen Group’s and Yankee Group’s. 
Lastly, prior to launch, 150 ISPs had signed letters of intent to become customers of Axient to deliver the Octane experience.  Within 12 weeks, that number jumped to more than 350.

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