Amazon unleashes $50 mil for the holidays

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With a combination of catchy jingles and discount coupons, is reaching outside cyberspace and onto Main Street to urge holiday shoppers to forgo crowded department stores and parking lots this year.

Using a '60s era variety show theme, Amazon tonight breaks a fourth-quarter ad blitz valued at nearly $50 million--more than 12 times its outlay for that period last year. The effort promotes the convenience of shopping in cyberspace while highlighting Amazon's breadth of product offerings.

"The Internet is very mainstream now," said Jaleh Bisharat, VP-marketing, "It is not intimidating."

To back up its holiday message and reach beyond its cyber-customers, Amazon for the first time is offering money-off coupons in magazine print ads. Amazon in the past, for example, offered money-off coupons to current customers to entice them to try other product lines.


While many TV spots for dot-com companies have a youthful, edgy tone--reflective of Web marketers' primarily young male target--Amazon's new campaign takes a family-friendly tone. It features a choir singing the praises of the site, its features and vastly expanded product offerings.

Already one of the leading book, CD and video vendors on the Web, Amazon last week announced an expansion into software and home improvement products, as well as its own co-branded credit card.

"We recognize the shopping pursestrings are still controlled by women," particularly at the holiday, Ms. Bisharat said. "The impact of women is more and more reflected on the Internet."

One of two spots focusing on the ease of shopping on the Web, for example, is patterned on the carol "The 12 Days of Christmas," and counts down days before the holidays indicating how consumers can do things other than spend hours shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores.

"Shopping online has become as traditional for the holidays as baking cookies and going to the mall," she said. "Only now, you'll have more time to bake cookies because you won't have to go to the mall."

Two additional spots focus on Amazon's toy selection; one focuses on the scope of Amazon's offerings. FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, is the agency.

"Our objective is to entertain our customers in a way that informs them and leaves them with a smile on their face," Ms. Bisharat said.

The aggressive marketing push is a first for Amazon, which built its reputation on Web site customer service through word of mouth to 13 million of the Web's estimated 30 million online shoppers.

Last year, Amazon spent $3.7 million on fourth-quarter advertising, with a primarily radio effort.


Last month, there were reports that Amazon would spend upwards of $100 million on its holiday advertising, causing an uproar among investors and on Wall Street.

Even so, Ms. Bisharat said the media weight of the new effort, in the $50 million range, will be substantial.

"We don't want anyone to be turning on the TV and not be humming our tune," she said.

Ms. Bisharat this summer took on the top marketing role at Amazon, succeeding Allen Olivo; he joined the company as VP-corporate marketing early this year. Mr. Olivo is currently working on other responsibilities at the company amid speculation he will be leaving. He declined to comment last week on the situation.

Amazon's TV spots will run on broadcast network and cable programming. The media buy will target women with programming such as "Ally McBeal," `'Friends" and Martha Stewart's Christmas special.

An eight-page insert in magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Ladies' Home Journal, along with Business Week, will offer readers $10 off a toy purchase of $25 or more. A print ad for Amazon toys will run in Martha Stewart Living and parenting magazines.

Amazon also will hype its online gift registry in a print effort in People and Entertainment Weekly.

"It is the fastest growing service on," said Ms. Bisharat.

Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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