Beliefnet converts Saatchi with $15 mil assignment

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Saatchi & Saatchi is getting religion, specifically the $15 million account for spirituality Web site

The company plans to launch a major branding campaign in the next three months to promote its multifaith site ( Saatchi's New York office is charged with spreading the word to consumers about's varied offerings -- which include content on religious topics ranging from wisdom of the Dalai Lama to Jewish cooking tips. CEO Tony Uphoff said Saatchi's out-of-the-box thinking helped the agency stand out in the competitive reivew among other contenders he declined to name.

"We're really interested in a fully integrated, brand-building campaign," said Mr. Uphoff. "What we weren't interested in was any agency that said, `Let's create a TV ad and run it on the Super Bowl.' Saatchi was unique in understanding the idea of building a brand through a variety of media." launched in January and registered more than 1 million impressions after one month, according to Mr. Uphoff, who attributed the traffic to word-of-mouth, advertising and media coverage.


The company hopes to build revenue through e-commerce and advertising.The site sells religious books, music, and alternative health and travel services at its online store. Mr. Uphoff said the U.S. market for spiritual products in those categories is $41 billion.

"More than 3 million Americans a year go to the Holy Lands, from Jerusalem to the Vatican," said Mr. Uphoff. Although is currently collaborating with on the travel program, Mr. Uphoff said the plan is to launch its own travel service soon.

In addition to e-commerce, the company also wants to build revenue by selling ad space. This week, the company will begin offering banner ads on its site. During the next 30 to 60 days, the company will also sell sponsorships of specific site areas; aside from religion, morality and spirituality, areas include culture, family and news.

"We have a very broad commerce revenue model," said Mr. Uphoff. "The store is just one component."

The site's major backer is Highland Capital, which Beliefnet said supported Ask Jeeves, eToys, Lycos and in the past.

Even in the influx of dot-coms, Mr. Uphoff believes his site has an advantage. "We have more interactive, passionate content," he said. "It means more to consumers than just scanning sports scores or looking up weather forecasts."

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