At a time when $500,000 is considered a substantial ad buy on the Internet, the Vitamin Shoppe is paying a seven-figure sum for exclusive rights to advertise on the Dr. Weil site (www.drweil.com).
Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard Medical School graduate, is a leading voice in alternative medicines, mind/body interactions and medical botany, and has authored seven books. Time Inc. New Media executives estimate traffic on his site at about 1.2 million page views per week, equivalent to several hundred thousand unique visitors every week.
Starting today, former advertisers on the Dr. Weil site, whose contracts all have expired, will be replaced by the Vitamin Shoppe. The site will sport a new look and several new features, including a link to the Vitamin Shoppe's ordering site in an area called the Vitamin Adviser.
Users will be able to use the Vitamin Adviser to answer questions and get a personalized Dr. Weil vitamin regime. Next to the regime will be a button that will send them to the Vitamin Shoppe's Web site (www.vitaminshoppe.com) so they can place an order.
"Now you can see it, read it and buy it in one seamless transaction," said Linda McCutcheon, Time Inc. New Media president. "We see this as a great service to our users."
With the credibility of Time Inc. New Media and Dr. Weil, she dismissed the idea users would wonder about the credibility of the advertising and editorial mix.
"The Vitamin Shoppe is not buying Dr. Weil shilling vitamins; they're buying Dr. Weil's integrity and credibility," she said.
The Vitamin Shoppe began looking at the Internet seven or eight months ago, said President-CEO Jeff Howard. At that time, the company began building a commerce site to sell vitamins online. Mr. Howard decided the Internet was a natural extension to the chain's 27 stores and mail-order business.
"In the beginning, we just wanted to make the best online vitamin shop there is. We weren't going to do much advertising, except maybe on search engines or a few other places," Mr. Howard said. "And then this deal just came to us."