Virtual Vineyards goes mainstream

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Virtual Vineyards, an e-commerce pioneer, has hired Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners West as its first full-service advertising agency.

Virtual Vineyards will expand its marketing efforts beyond its current online presence to include a print branding effort, a test of direct mail, joint promotions with credit card companies, strategic alliances with portals and online guides.

Included in the review were Lai, Venuti & Lai Advertising, Santa Clara, Calif., and previous agency Left Field, San Francisco, which handled online advertising and developed the tagline currently used in some Virtual Vineyards advertising, "We pair wine with people."

"Kirshenbaum as an agency has strong consumer branding experience both online and offline," said Rita Belle, director of marketing and advertising.


Ms. Belle noted that the move to traditional advertising has become a trend this year pushing into 1999.

"You will see more brand building online and off in 1999 as people try to focus on acquiring customers," she said.

Founded in 1994, Virtual Vineyards sells some 400 different types of California and imported wines ranging from $9.99 to $300 a bottle, which are shipped to customers within a few days to 40 states and within two weeks to the remaining states. The site also sells gourmet foods and gifts.

Virtual Vineyards, which prides itself on "demystifying wine," offers tasting charts and wine notes, and helps pair food and wine. In addition, the site has developed an online personality--Peter Granoff, a "cork dork" who helps guide customers through the store.

Ad spending is in the range of $1 million, Ms. Belle said.

Other clients at Kirshenbaum's San Francisco office, with billings of about $15 million, include Mother's Cookies, Real Names and Andre-Boudin Bakeries.

Copyright December 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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