Photo Web sites roll out plans to build brands

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Photo imaging Web sites such as Snapfish.com Corp., PhotoWorks and Ofoto are developing ad strategies to attract the estimated 95% of consumers who still use film-based cameras.

"Brand awareness--and even category awareness--is extremely low in the general population," said Melissa Barritt Felder, VP-consumer marketing at Snapfish, a 6-month-old company that offers film processing as well as image posting, storage and sharing for free.

"There is a real opportunity for the space in people's minds to be grabbed still," she said.

SNAPFISH IN PRINT

Snapfish today breaks a national print campaign from Rathje, Chadwick & Co., San Francisco.

The print ad shows snapshots of children enjoying themselves on a beach vacation.Copy reads, "You paid for the vacation. Let us pay for the prints." An attached postage-paid envelope lets consumers send their film to Snapfish.

Ms. Barritt Felder said, "we're spending at a rate that definitely makes us a contender, and we're out to win."

Although most camera companies and many photo sites admit film is far from dead, they also see opportunity in the Web.

Online photo company PhotoWorks leveraged its 23-year heritage in the mail-in photo processing industry in April, changing its focus and name, from Seattle FilmWorks.

"We repositioned the company from being a mail-order photofinishing company," said Gary Tashjian, VP-marketing at PhotoWorks. "Now we're an online photo service company that has a photofinishing lab in-house."

PHOTOWORKS' MODEL

PhotoWorks hired its first shop, Bozell, Seattle, a year ago. Bozell's brief was broad--to guide the company in repositioning its mission and its brand, said Chris Lloyd, management supervisor at Bozell.

"Unlike some of the other companies, the PhotoWorks model is more similar to what folks are used to," Mr. Lloyd said. "We didn't want to ask people to jump too far afield" by offering services such as "you only get the prints you want."

That's the model and marketing message used by rival Ofoto, which provides photo processing on its own site and for photo-sharing site partners.

Ofoto, the No. 4 photo site in May with 1.18 million unique users, according to PC Data Online, launched a $10 million print campaign in April, from TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, touting the benefits of paying "only for the pictures you love."

A series of seven print executions will run through yearend in magazines such as Martha Stewart Living, People and Wired.

"The whole branding push for Ofoto is to make it more or less an ingredient brand," which enhances other photo-sharing sites that do not offer processing, said Ofoto VP-Marketing Jim Gustke.

While Ofoto was still solidifying partnerships when its ad campaign launched, it did not want to wait.

"We definitely believe that `time-to-market' is a very important thing," Mr. Gustke said.

PhotoWorks--No. 7 in PC Data Online's photo site ranking with 765,000 unique visitors--also saw the advantage of getting its name out early. But unlike Ofoto, PhotoWorks' $10 million TV and print campaign, which broke in May, attempts to explain the benefits of the entire online photo processing concept in addition to marketing its own brand.

"Part of the challenge is, this category doesn't exist," Mr. Lloyd said. "We have to give some parameters to what this category is."

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