Women's site iVillage woos busy female fitness buffs

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Through a new partnership between iVillage and Netpulse Communications, the women's site will advertise to people while they work out.

Starting June 1, iVillage's name, banners and content will appear on Netpulse Stations, devices connected to recumbent bicycles and stair-climbing machines in 300 gyms nationwide. IVillage is also using Netpulse to test TV commercials breaking in June.

IN2 handles online advertising and DDB Needham Worldwide, also New York, handles TV.

CAPTIVE, BUT BUSY AUDIENCE

IVillage's goal is to increase traffic by targeting a captive audience: women who work out but have limited time to do so, said Hillary Graves, VP-marketing for iVillage.

Women's interest in sports and exercise is evident in a recent survey from NPD Online Research: Nearly 40% of women who go online retrieve sports news. This group generally falls between the ages of 25 and 44, coinciding with the age being targeted by both Netpulse and iVillage.

"We reach women ages 25 to 54. All of them are starved for time and are masters of multitasking," Ms. Graves said. "[Netpulse's and] our positions are so in line that way."

Netpulse Stations mounted on workout equipment let users to surf the Web, listen to CDs or watch TV while exercising--for free. More than half of Netpulse users are women, most of whom are between 18 and 49, educated and affluent.

Under terms of the one-year deal, iVillage will advertise via banners throughout the Netpulse Network, including on its welcome screen at the start of a workout. An iVillage-branded button will also appear on the screen, linking the user to content accessed at its site. For example, users will be able to access iVillage's Never Say Diet Community Challenge, an online program in which thousands of women across the country help each other diet.

In addition, iVillage will be the exclusive sponsor of Netpulse's women's channel, a collection of sites geared toward women and grouped for easy access.

CUSTOM DEAL WITH GM

This deal is the first of its kind for Netpulse, said Mike Alvarez Cohen, co-founder and senior VP-business development, noting that the company had customized deals with large marketers, such as General Motors Corp., but this deal stands out because of its duration and integration with iVillage.

"We are integrating a lot of iVillage content directly into the workout. This is not just about banners and click-throughs," Mr. Alvarez Cohen said.

Netpulse is talking with other advertisers, looking for sponsors of these and other Netpulse channels.

"This is a model we want to pursue," Mr. Alvarez Cohen added.

Under the agreement, iVillage will partner with Netpulse to develop fitness incentive programs and Netpulse will integrate iVillage broadband content into its network.

AD EFFECTIVENESS TO BE TESTED

IVillage will also launch several new TV commercials on Netpulse, due out in June, in conjunction with the ads launching on TV. The women's network will test effectiveness of full-screen, broadcast-quality ads by measuring which ads most often prompt users to click on a button for more information.

"If we run the ads and any of them don't run that well, we can optimize accordingly," iVillage's Ms. Graves said. "We'll be comparing the TV ads to others and the TV ads to our banners. We'll test as many things as possible."

The deal's value was undisclosed; iVillage will pay Netpulse $50 per thousand impressions.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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