Auction Site Gets 30 Million Visitors Monthly; Wants to Be America's Online Mall

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- eBay, trying to break into the retail mainstream, this week launches a major branding effort, one that
Solidly successful as an online auction site, eBay is now eyeing the broader national retail market.
humorously takes off on an old Frank Sinatra song by using the tagline "Do it eBay."

The anticipated $15 million-plus integrated campaign this holiday season marks eBay's return to TV advertising after two years. The campaign focuses not just on its auctions and collectibles, but on the site as an everyday shopping destination, said Gary Briggs, vice president of consumer marketing for eBay.

Consumer awareness
"We want to ask consumers to consider eBay on a daily basis," he said. "We have huge consumer awareness as a business, but the understanding with the consumer isn't where we want it to be."

Ellis Verdi, president ad agency DeVito/Verdi, and a member of the board of directors of the National Retail Federation's Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, said eBay "needs to be perceived as a mainstream purchasing vehicle." Otherwise, "they will do well, but will always be a tertiary player," he said.

Sinatra soundalike
Creative, from Omnicom Group's

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Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, features a balding man, in the voice of a Sinatra soundalike, belting out an eBay version of the 1948 song "I Did It My Way." As he dances through various scenes, he croons jabs at mainstream retailers, at one point singing about not getting "hosed" while a row of dancing firemen produce a shower of water.

The campaign, breaking Nov. 10 on prime-time network programming includes two additional spots, one for the holiday and a second reinforcing eBay's "Buy it now" program in which consumers don't have to wait for an auction to be complete and where products have fixed prices.

The marketing effort, planned to run through next year, also includes print and Internet advertising. The online auction site has spent $16.6 million in the first six months of this year in measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. In 2000, it spent $19.4 million, and $15 million in 2001.

Rivals ready campaigns
EBay is battling to be the place consumers start online shopping against rivals, Yahoo! Shopping, AOL Time Warner's America Online and Amazon.com. Amazon this month launched a new apparel and accessories store and on Monday the online portal breaks a prime-time network campaign pushing online shopping covenience. Tagged "And you're done," the spots from agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., show scenes such as a mother trying to shop at a toy store. Amazon officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Jennifer Betka, vice president of commerce, said AOL hopes to stimulate sales in the short selling season with a program capturing shoppers favorite gifts which, in turn, will be featured in Macys.com promotions. "It is becoming a very competitive world -- there are a lot of options out there," Ms. Betka said.

"They are all working to be the one place" consumers go to shop online, said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst of e-commerce at Neilsen/NetRatings, an internet measurement firm.

30 million visitors
Though eBay's average user is slightly less affluent than that of Amazon.com, Ms. Strand noted that in September more than 30 million individuals went to the eBay site, some 25% of all active online visitors.

Other online retailers also are pushing their holiday offerings. Buy.com, for example, relaunched its annual holiday magazine.

Overall, online holiday sales are forecast to increase 17% over last year's $11.2 billion to $13 billion, according to Juliana Deeks, associate analyst at Jupiter Research.

Holiday sales are expected to make up 32% of this year's annual retail sales, down from 36% last year, Ms. Deeks said. She said the ad campaigns come as online retailers prepare for a short selling season, which some analysts have pegged at as only 19 core selling days, six days fewer than last year's selling season.

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