Epinions review Web site unveils $10 mil campaign

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Epinions.com, a Web site carrying written word-of-mouth product reviews, this week kicks off its first ad campaign, including a TV spot that shows an Apple Computer iMac destroyed at a shooting range.

The estimated $10 million effort, from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, attempts to bring the site to life on TV by using actual people explaining their reviews for the site. Another commercial highlights a negative review of a Utah ski resort, showing the snowboarder who wrote it being denied admission.

There are positive spots, too: In one, a reviewer tests a tent by taking it through a car wash.

SITE FOR REAL PEOPLE

The spots use a device similar to films that detail a character's fate at the end. Each commercial ends with a super that reads, "Epinions.com. A place where real people write reviews on products and services."

Visitors to the Epinions site (epinions.com) select a circle of trusted advisers, other reviewers whose opinions they value. Epinions pays a few cents to reviewers each time others read their article. Epinions does not sell products, but refers visitors to sites that do sell the products being reviewed. Its business plan is based on income from deals with other sites. It offers links to relevant sites and earns commissions from sales on those sites.

Other dot-com companies, such as Amazon.com and CNET, have long solicited visitors' comments for reviews on their sites. Subsequently, ConsumerReview. com, Deja.com, Productopia and RateItAll.com also moved into the word-of-mouth opinion model.

However, Paul Venables, associate creative director at Goodby, said, "Epinions.com is a consumer marketplace more than a company."

To underscore the site's "authentic" quality, the spots were shot by two Goodby creatives, Terry Finley and Sharon Tao, rather than a commercial director.

The spots are based on real reviews and the reviewers came up with their own ideas on how to present them in the advertising.

The campaign breaks March 9 on Epinions' Web site.

The spots move March 13 to prime-time programming in a half-dozen high Internet-usage cities, including Houston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

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