December 29, 2006, 12:00 AM

Advertising to the Masses

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To ensure that the message gets to the target group-fashion-conscious, obsessive shoppers-the Bluefly ads appeared during shows such as Sex in the City, a cable series chronicling the tangled relationships of four single women in New York, and Project Runway, a reality series in which 15 fashion designers compete to show their designs during New York’s Fashion Week. “We’re very, very selective in the programs we choose to advertise during,” Gottlieb says. “We know these programs have a higher viewership of the kinds of people we want to reach.”

Likewise, Bluefly selects shopping magazines such as “Elle” and “Lucky” to showcase print ads. “We favor behavior over demographics all the time,” Matson says. “Do they have the fashion quotient and the hip quotient that we’re looking for? We know that’s where we’ll find our customers.”

Get them shopping
Driving potential customers to the site is one thing. Getting them to shop is another.

“Television’s job is to create some interest and awareness,” Matson says. “Once we get them to the site, it’s really the job of smart online direct marketing to convert them to Bluefly shoppers.”

To that end, Bluefly always runs an online sweepstakes concurrently with the television ad campaigns, Matson says. For example, in one contest, shoppers have a chance to win a different hard-to-get, high-fashion handbag every day for 45 days. They must register their e-mail address to participate in the contest.

“We’re able to capture somebody who sees the product, loves it and wants that handbag,” Matson says. “They don’t have to buy anything but we get their e-mail address. That then allows us to start communicating with them and showing what Bluefly has to offer. And that ends up converting them into buyers.”

Netflix uses its mass-media ad campaigns to drive home the theme that there’s always a movie waiting at home, the spokesman says. For one ad campaign Netflix produced five 30-second spots in which characters from different movie genres-children’s, romance, foreign, suspense and war-played out scenes in subscribers’ homes. “There are more effective ways of informing, giving more in-depth information, but when you want to get some recognition of the name and some quick impressions of what the company does, 30-second and 60-second spots on network TV reach the mass audience,” he says.

Consistent message
Netflix selected ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to handle the mass media ad campaign. As befits its broader target audience, Netflix runs the ads on NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox on such popular shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Dancing with the Stars, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman. Netflix also makes use of radio, print ads and direct mail in addition to traditional online marketing techniques such as banner ads. “Everything is done with consistent messaging, consistent visuals, consistent themes,” the Netflix spokesman says.

Like Netflix, advertises on a wide variety of programs that draw from different demographic groups. “We really aren’t concerned if it’s a detective show or a reality TV show,” Simon says. “We’re more focused on whether people are loyal to the show.”

Overstock, which creates and manages the mass media ad program in house, has advertised on such programs as The Nanny, CSI, This Week With George Stephanopoulos, and the World Series and Superbowl.

Mass media advertising doesn’t come cheap, and online retailers have to compete for ad space with bricks-and-mortar companies with huge marketing budgets. Last year Bluefly spent about half of its $13 million marketing budget on TV and print advertising, Matson says. The remainder of the budget went toward online marketing such as paid and natural search, affiliates, comparison engines, and e-mail.

Adding mass media advertising to the marketing mix makes sense for web-only merchants because consumers are exposed to a mix of media, both online and offline, says Kim of Forrester Research. “If you want to get the message out the most effective way is to take an integrated approach,” he contends.

Still, offline ad campaigns aren’t the answer for every e-retailer. “I wouldn’t advocate a rush into mass media just because you can,” Kim says. “It’s a matter of asking, ‘Is this the best place for me to spend my money above and beyond what we’re already doing?’”

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