Webvan campaign plays upon anti-grocery store sentiment

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Webvan group, with an aggressive anti-grocery store advertising campaign, is selling itself as the most convenient way for consumers to get groceries delivered to their home and an easy method for package goods marketers to get a foot in consumers' doors.

Under new VP-Marketing and Strategic Alliances Maigread Martinez, Webvan is pushing alliances ranging from those with major package goods companies to those with the Girl Scouts to sell cookies and children's retailer Gymboree Corp. to deliver games.

"The mission of Webvan is the last mile of e-commerce," said Ms. Martinez, adding the company's van will drop off deliveries and pick up returned products.

Webvan's competitors include Kozmo.com, a home delivery service backed by Amazon.com that delivers goods such as videos and Starbucks coffee.

Ms. Mar-tinez said package goods manufacturers see how Webvan consumers shop online in real time, helping marketers make better decisions on packaging, size and flavors. At the same time, Webvan's inventory system allows manufacturers to test products by sending free samples to likely users, she said. Those products that prove successful in that they generate repeat orders can be added in just 10 days, instead of the 13 weeks bricks-andmortar stores need before they can stock new items, she said.


"Throw out the slotting fees and deep discounting," said Ms. Martinez in noting Webvan does not charge slotting fees or demand excessive discounts. Webvan hopes to win manufacturers' loyalty by pushing products that its generally upscale customers will perceive as providing added value. For example, she said, General Mills' squeezable yogurt Go-Gurt has proven successful with Webvan's core customer -- soccer moms, she said.

Last week, Webvan added Nabisco, Clorox Co. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. to Kellogg Co., Quaker Oats, Pillsbury and General Mills as package goods partners.

Ms. Martinez said Webvan hopes to compete with giant Wal-Mart Stores, which is in the initial stages of its next big online assault.

Webvan began its campaign in San Francisco with a choreographed branding effort, but is following it with a series of pointed TV spots tagged, "Same groceries, no store. Webvan: You may never go to the store again." Webvan also uses print and outdoor ads.

One TV spot created by Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, shows a customer putting her dog on top of a pile of nectarines while another customer takes a bite of one, only to put it back. A second spot spot for the estimated $10 million to $15 million account shows a clerk having trouble getting the store's scanner to work. Spots will be shown in sequence in Atlanta in May and later in Chicago and Seattle. The company plans to be in 15 markets by 2001 and 26 markets in three years.

Webvan's moves come as the market continues to be skeptical about the e-tailing field. Webvan traded below $7 a share last week, far off the high of $34 hit after its November initial public offering.

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