1-800 CONTACTS KICKS OFF $12 MIL NATIONAL TV EFFORT: DIRECT RETAILER ENLISTS HUMOR TO SELL ITS LENSES

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Using the remember-us-through-humor approach common in ads for fledgling Internet companies, 1-800 Contacts this month launches a national TV campaign designed to make viewers chuckle and then pick up the phone.

The $12 million image-building campaign is the first for the contact lens direct marketer from Saatchi & Saatchi, San Francisco, and breaks from its previous product-focused approach. Print also will be used.

"The advertising is designed to get your attention and be memorable," said Jonathan Coon, 1-800 Contacts president-CEO.

The company, which went public in February 1998 and began TV advertising that June, sells replacement lenses primarily via its toll-free number and Internet site.

TARGETING WOMEN

The campaign targets women, who make up about two-thirds of contact wearers, and depicts women in uncomfortable yet comical situations.

One spot features a woman driver at a stoplight who sees a man picking his nose; another shows a diner at an elegant restaurant where the kitchen door swings open to show a chef picking food off the floor and putting it on a plate.

The tagline, "If you have to see it, why not see it for less," refers to 1-800 Contacts' positioning as a less-expensive alternative to the local eye doctor or a mass retailer.

Local optometrists and ophthalmologists are believed to account for about 70% of a $3 billion annual market for lenses, while mass retailers such as LensCrafters make up an additional 25%. Direct and Internet marketers, such as 1-800 Contacts rival Lens Express, account for the remaining 5%.

MARKET GROWTH

The market has grown substantially during the last decade as the market has shifted from traditional lenses replaced annually toward disposable lenses that are replaced weekly or even daily.

1-800 Contacts attributes much of its growth -- with sales of $59.9 million last year, up from $21.1 million in 1997 -- to its decision to use TV.

The company said it spent $22.7 million on advertising in 1998.

Mr. Coon said that '98 effort resulted in calls going from about 5,000 a day to 15,000 to 20,000 daily within two months.

It expects to spend close to $20 million in advertising this year and may add an

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