Wine council tunes out TV to wade into the Internet

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The Wine Market Council is eschewing TV for the Internet.

The U.S. industry group -- trying to reach the 26 million people who drink wine but partake less than once a week -- has been running a test campaign promoting drinking wine rather than pushing a single brand. But the "Wine, what are you saving it for?" campaign, from Bozell, Chicago, begun a year ago, has resulted in only modest sales gains. The Wine Council is now reconsidering its choice of media.

The $1.2 million effort was tested in two markets, Austin, Texas, and Albany, N.Y. Sales in Austin were up an incremental 2.3% over sales in a control market, San Diego. Sales of $6 bottles of white zinfandel and chardonnay rose 11%, while sales of superpremium wine priced from $8 grew 1%. In Albany, sales could not be compared with a control market because of insufficient scanner data.

Now, the council is increasing its ad spending to $2 million, but refocusing on the Internet and point-of-purchase advertising.


"Strategically, we're in the same place, but tactically, we can more effectively use the Internet and point-of-purchase as venues for our message," said John Gillespie, president of the Wine Market Council, a Greenbrae, Calif.-based industry group with 300 member growers, vintners, importers, wholesalers and retailers. "If you look at it on a dollar-per-soul-saved [converted to wine] basis, it's a more efficient way of reaching the 26 million people we are trying to reach," he said.

The council will begin providing content for Internet sites reaching women ages 30 and over, such as Oxygen or iVillage. It also plans to launch its own Web site, as well as a series of promotional microsites tied to holidays and slated to be up only short periods. Recently, for example, the council launched a Valentine's Day site (, which offered Valentine's Day e-greetings.

"We're trying to make the Internet work for us as an industry," Mr. Gillespie said.

The Internet efforts will be complimented by point-of-purchase materials and public relations efforts primarily during the summer or early fall, when many wine brands do not advertise.


The shift in focus underscores the challenge the wine industry faces from consumers who indicate they like wine but just don't know where to start in the purchasing process, Mr. Gillespie said. He noted that some entrepreneurs, such as Best Cellars, a chain with stores in Boston, New York and Seattle, have created a new format for selling wine. Each shop contains only 100 wines, each priced less than $10. The selection is lined up by wine "flavor" under signs such as "Fizzy," "Fresh & Fruity" or "Bold & Rich."

"It's not for the wine connoisseur who wants the best of the 1996 [vintage] but for the big slice of people who like wine but just don't know where to start," he said.

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