Auction Universe puts in $10 mil bid for customers

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Auction Universe raises its bid for more customers this week with a new $10 million ad campaign.

The online auction site's first-ever TV spot breaking today targets sports-memorabilia collectors. The spot features a humorous bidding war for a rare 1956 Mickey Mantle baseball card in an unlikely place--church.

Auction Universe recently selected Romann Group, New York, to create this first full-scale marketing effort. Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, Westport, Conn., handles the online part of the account.


Todd Merrill, Auction Universe VP-marketing, said about 70% of the company's budget will go for TV and print ads, with the rest going to online advertising.

Auction Universe is using an uncommon strategy: creating specific ads for various demographic groups. For instance, the baseball-card ad will target sports fans and air on cable channels such as ESPN.

The company currently is planning several new "niche" TV spots; all will have a consistent "bidding war" theme, showing people spontaneously trying to outbid each other.

The Web site may tap into the Beanie Babies craze as a way to target young families. It is considering going after sci-fi junkies with "Star Wars" memorabilia and high-end shoppers with pricey antiques.


Along with cable TV, print ads will be run in collector magazines. Next year, the company plans to run ads in about 125 newspapers.

"The campaign is highly targeted. We're not going after everyone, we're just going after specific interest groups," said Gad Romann, CEO of Romann Group.

Mr. Merrill said Auction Universe chose cable TV because of some initial success with the medium. The company was profiled in a news story that ran several times on F/X Channel; each time the piece aired, traffic to the auction site spiked by about 500 users, he said.

Auction Universe's main competition is eBay, which last week launched its own print and radio campaign with the tagline, "What are you searching for?"

Acme Idea Co., South Norwalk, Conn. created the campaign.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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