EBay effort plays up public honesty

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Following a rash of news stories about the potential for fraud on its site, eBay is shifting strategies with a new campaign centered on one of its cultural tenets: "People are good."

The online auction house, which spent $85 million in measured media last year, will use the tagline, "The power in all of us" for its new campaign, slated for magazines, TV and online. Emotional executions include one of a little boy playing with toy race cars with his parents at a speedway. The text says, "There are thousands who love the things you love. How will you find them?"

Neither executives from eBay nor its agency, Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, returned calls for comment by press time.

The effort replaces its two-year old Broadway show-stoppers effort that shows average people doing riotous renditions of show tunes. That campaign stressed eBay's breadth of product and showcased its push into big-ticket items such as cars.

EBay has more than a passing stake in the goodness of the populace, given the recent publicity. "Our business may be harmed by fraudulent activities on our Web sites and disputes between users of our services," eBay said in a prospectus filed in September with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It's established a buyer-protection program insuring items up to $200 in value with a $25 deductible for users with good feedback ratings. Its partner PayPal has implemented a similar buyer protection program for coverage starting in November of up to $1,000 with no deductible.

more than google

EBay is the leading online commerce site by far with 48.5 million unique visitors in August, 56% bigger than its next largest competitor, Amazon.com with 31.1 million unique visitors, according to Nielsen/Netratings. The average amount of time each visitor spent on eBay was 1 hour and 47 minutes, compared with 17 minutes for Amazon.com, the Nielsen/Netratings data indicated. By comparison, Wal-Mart's site had 11.9 million unique visitors and an average visiting time of a little over 8 minutes.

"EBay is riding a pretty good wave," said Patti Freeman Evans, retail analyst, Jupiter. "It even has more traffic than Google," she said, citing Comscore Media Metrix data putting eBay with an average monthly traffic of 64.6 million unique visitors compared with 59.3 million for Google.

Still, eBay, now with about 96% of the auction market, according to Ms. Freeman Evans, needs to watch its back as competitors from Yahoo! Auction and Amazon.com gain traction. Most recently, Overstock.com announced a new auction site to compete with eBay.

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