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Evian Will Connect Your Fridge to the Internet With Smart Drop

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Evian is sidestepping retail partners to sell its products directly to consumers with the promotion of a new online delivery service, and the release of a new digital device it plans to make available widely in 2013. The device can be tacked onto the fridge and enable water delivery with the push of a single button.

Initially, the website, called evianchezvous.com, is only available in Paris and its surrounding suburbs, the target being single-family homes and small businesses. The website will also permit delivery of other water products in the Danone family, such as Badoit or Volvic water. The idea is for a consumer to set their preferences on the website, choosing the frequency of shipments and number of bottles delivered based on the home or company's size. Delivery is free with a 15-euro purchase and the company will pick up empty bottles for recycling. The device, which Evian for now is dubbing the Smart Drop, is a WiFi-enabled magnet about four inches long, with an LED screen; by the time it rolls out it is expected to also have a mobile app to run on smartphones. Given Evian is owned by French food company Danone, the device and the app will be introduced first in Paris and then will attempt to move into other global markets. The faster it can do so the better; that's likely where much of the growth is. The International Bottled Water Association, in conjunction with Beverage Marketing Corp., recently released 2011 bottled-water statistics, which data shows the overall consumption of bottled water in the U.S. has increased by 4.1%.

To be sure, Evian isn't moving rapidly with the plan; the e-commerce platform is being rolled out wide to Paris after nearly two years of tests, which has been worked on for several months.

During a press conference held in Paris last week, Ivan Beczkowski, digital creative director at Evian's agency, BETC, said the decision to create a magnet stemmed from wanting to keep refreshing supply of Evian top-of-mind and in a natural environment for consumers, reminding them when they are out of water. He joked: You think about being out of toilet paper when you're on the toilet, and you think about being out of water when you're looking in the fridge.

The technology was developed by Parisian digital firm Joshfire, while the design, which was done by BETC, was likened by Mr. Beczkowski to that of an old 80's Nintendo GameBoy, with just a few simple buttons. But to this Ad Age writer, the couple of prototype models on hand at the event for journalists to examine also felt reminiscent of older Apple MacBook laptops, with similar white plastic shell and a similar looking on-off button.

BETC has worked with Evian for many years and was also behind the "Live Young" campaign starring roller-skating babies, which featured a viral video that a couple of years ago became the most-downloaded ad of all time.

Between the new website and the device, it's a big investment on Danone's behalf to try and focus on e-commerce and directly interact with customers and potentially circumvent the nation's biggest supermarkets, such as Monoprix and Carrefour. It's also a change of tack for the Evian brand, which has a higher price point than other bottled water brands and has long positioned itself in the luxury space, with some of its product extensions including beauty sprays.

Following the press conference, Frederic Guichard, marketing director at Danone Waters France, told Ad Age it a continuation of the brand's history of innovating useful applications whether it be a handle on packaging to help consumers carry water or compressing water bottles to help consumers recycle.

Mr. Guichard also told Ad Age the company's moves were born out of research it's been doing about barriers to consumption in the bottled-water category, and that "one of the top three reasons cited by consumers was the issue of weight," because they don't like carrying heavy bottles home.

Of course, they could always simply turn on the tap- -- which Mr. Guichard acknowledged is one of Evian's biggest key competitors.

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