February 25, 2011, 3:32 PM

E-retailers preen for Oscar

Fashion e-retailers took advantage of the buzz, and J.C. Penney launched a logo.

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For a lot of viewers, the Academy Awards isn’t really about movies—the night’s real drama is all about the best- and worst-dressed celebrities, the necks draped with diamonds, the glow of all those stars making their way down the red carpet.  With consumers in a fashion frame of mind, e-retailers are set to take advantage of the Oscar buzz with special sales and discounts, and with plans to tap into the conversations consumers are likely to have on social networks about dresses, shoes and all that bling.

“The Oscar coverage is starting even earlier this year,” says Marie Ivanoff, vice president of merchandising at Ideeli.com, a flash-sale site. “It’s becoming about the red carpets.”

Jewelry e-retailer Ice.com starting drumming up Oscar buzz Feb. 15 when it launched a sweepstakes it called Rock the Red Carpet. The giveaway runs through Monday and will grant one lucky winner a matching diamond ring and necklace. Ice.com founder Pinny Gniwisch says the sweepstakes is just the first part of its plans for Oscar weekend. Ice.com, No. 195 on Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, will host an Oscar viewing party on Twitter and Facebook that will include comments on stars’ jewels and participation by some of the retailer’s more than 76,000 Facebook fans. Participants have the chance to win a $100 Ice.com gift certificate.

Fashion e-retailer Bluefly (No. 163) says it will post live updates on Twitter during the red carpet arrivals and the awards show, and then produce post-event fashion reviews for its blog. The e-retailer will also put evening gowns on sale on Sunday to coincide with Oscar night, says Monica Halpert, head of content for Bluefly.

Gilt Groupe (140), another flash-sale site, also will use social media to dial up fashion buzz through an arrangement with reality TV celebrities Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian. The sisters have a combined 4.7 million Twitter followers and will pose questions about Oscar fashions to their Twitter fans. To answer, consumers click on a link that takes them to a page that contains Gilt.com advertisements. “Our goal for the campaign is to take advantage of the Oscar buzz on Twitter by driving traffic to a sponsored poll where people can vote for their favorite fashion designer,” a Gilt spokeswoman says. She adds that Gilt expects the sisters’ tweets will be reposted by thousands of other Twitter users.

It makes sense for retailers to combine Oscar-related marketing with social networks, as the number of consumers who watch TV and go online at the same time is growing. According to Nielsen Co. data, 13.3% of Academy Award show viewers last year spent time on the web while they watched the TV broadcast, up from 8.7% in 2009. Of those who went online, 40% visited Facebook. During the Super Bowl broadcast earlier this month, consumers posted more than 38,000 messages on Twitter about a Chrysler ad and more than 25,000 other posts commented on Best Buy’s advertisement, according to Resource Interactive.

An Ideeli.com spokeswoman says the site hopes to use the Oscars to extend the engagement and conversations it had with consumers through social media about New York’s recent Fashion Week activities. “Social media is a tremendous area of engagement for us,” she says. “The Oscars present another great conversation piece for us.”

The Academy Awards TV broadcast draws an enormous audience, and is usually the No. 2 most-watched program each year after the Super Bowl. More than 41 million people tuned in to the awards last year, according to Nielsen. Two retailers, Amazon.com (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide) and J.C. Penney (No. 16), have TV ads scheduled to air during the broadcast, along with other marketing activities.

J.C. Penney is a title sponsor of the awards show and will air seven 30-second ads about its spring fashions. It will also use the award show to debut its new logo and tagline, “We make it affordable, you make it yours.” A company spokeswoman says the title sponsorship means a voice-over will mention the retailer as the show cuts to commercial breaks.

There won’t be any Oscar-specific promotions on JCPenney.com, but the spokeswoman says the retailer will be running a trivia contest about Oscar fashions on Twitter. The multichannel retailer will award $20 gift cards to the first six correct answers. Meanwhile, Amazon.com this week has a special Oscar Central page that features this year’s nominated films and actors. Consumers can buy DVDs or stream the nominated films that are already on video, or pre-order the films that are still in theaters.

E-retailers are also running Oscar-themed promotions and sales. In addition to its social media efforts, Gilt Groupe premiered a Red Carpet Look sale today that features gowns, jewelry and movie-themed gift items. Apparel retailer Banana Republic, part of Gap Inc. (No. 23), sent an e-mail promotion with the subject line “Envelope, Please” today that, when recipients click through, assigns a discount of up to 40% off purchases made through Sunday using promotion codes that start as BROSCAR.

Ideeli.com launches its Red Carpet Style sale on Saturday. Promotional copy says the sale is designed to bring “the best big night style to you, with gowns and accessories designed to help you interpret your favorite red carpet trend.” Ideeli’s Ivanoff  says the e-retailer purposely selected items based on red-carpet fashions from award shows earlier this year, such as the Golden Globes. The sale, which runs through Tuesday, features items priced from $10 for jewelry items to $2,200 for a designer evening gown. Ivanoff says the price of the evening gown is at the higher end of what the site normally features but that she thinks Oscar-primed customers will be open to buying it.

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