Raising the bar on eBay purchases

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Your candy wrappers will soon be worth cold hard cash on eBay.

Bidding on the theory that many candy lovers are also some of the online auction site's millions of daily visitors, Hershey Corp. in May will launch an extensive integrated campaign to push eBay Wrapper Cash. The innovative promotion allows consumers to trade in their candy bar packaging for money toward a select group of items on the site.

Michele Buck, Hershey's new chief marketing officer (see related story), said the effort allows Hershey to combine the Internet component it increasingly seeks in its marketing initiatives with "the strength of our scale at retail." Ms. Buck said Hershey sells 3.5 billion single-serve bars every year, providing an immediate way to offer consumers "added-value" and tap into exciting popular interests. Hershey pitched the idea in its analyst meeting earlier this year as evidence of the type of out-of-the-box marketing moves it is plotting to continue its tremendous momentum over the last few years.

Beginning in May for a limited time, Hershey will place code numbers on the single-serve packages of its candy bar varieties, among them Hershey's, Almond Joy and KitKat, that can be used toward the purchase of items Hershey has pre-selected on eBay. Hershey will tout the promotion with an integrated effort that includes in-store signage as well as Internet and radio ads from Havas' Arnold, New York.

eBay, which posted net revenue of $4.5 billion in 2005, has 181 million registered users worldwide and 78 million listings of products in more than 50,000 categories at any given time, according to an eBay fact sheet. While popular, eBay continues itself to look for ways to up its profile beyond its own media expenditures, which totaled $126 million from October 2004 to September 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. BBDO, New York, is its agency of record.

According to Josh Linkner, CEO of interactive promotion agency, ePrize, tie-ins with eBay are likely to grow as marketers aim to capitalize on its vast product portfolio. "It's almost like a big reward catalog, and people would clearly rather use that than something where they can just get a toaster," he said.

Other marketers have tied in with Internet properties, particularly Apple's iTunes site. Marketers from the Army to McDonald's have offered free iTunes music downloads in exchange for signing up or purchasing their products.

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