iVillage stirs the pot for Web advertising

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Parent Soup site sells out space by integrating marketers in mix

After selling out ad space on Parent Soup, iVillage wants to repeat the success with its next online venture, About Work.

The New York-based content developer this month signed three new advertisers to Parent Soup: Fisher-Price, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. Its 10 sponsors together have brought in $800,000 in ad commitments.

The company soon will start a special sponsorship program for Procter & Gamble Co., but aside from that won't take any new ads for the parent-oriented community until July at the earliest.

The challenge now is to keep the momentum going with About Work, a community launching in July where people can go to get career advice, find mentors and complain about their boss. iVillage hopes to sign four charter sponsors by July 1.


The company has succeeded on the ad front by offering marketers two environments: an area on America Online (an early financial backer of iVillage) and a separate Web site. Marketers sign on for a minimum of six months; in exchange, they get specially designed content and promotional assistance from iVillage. Straight banner links to Web sites are de-emphasized.

"We really understand how to bring a community together," said Candice Carpenter, iVillage CEO. Six-month sponsorships cost $75,000; one year is $150,000. Neither price includes production charges.

So far, the concept is working. Parent Soup generates more than one million page views per month on AOL and the Web. Nearly 75% of AOL users are between 26 and 45; interestingly, only 13% are women.


Marketers get prime positioning. Metro-Goldwn-Mayer sponsors the entertainment area, for example, providing tips on renting videos and suggestions for movies to watch with kids. Polaroid Corp. tells how parents can improve kids' self-esteem with instant photos.

"I love the notion that they're working with us collaboratively," said Carol Phelan, senior marketing communications manager at Polaroid, which bought a one-year sponsorship. "I don't even think of this as advertising."

Starbucks Corp. this month starts a sponsorship of the community area, offering a retail store locator and links to the company's existing Cafe Starbucks on AOL. The coffee retailer will be part of a large-scale online merchandising area opening on Parent Soup in July.


The concept has been successful enough for iVillage to generate financial backing from AOL, Tribune Co., TCI Interactive and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The four companies combined to provide $12 million in financing, announced last week.

Unlike its West Coast competitor Starwave Corp., iVillage isn't interested in partnering with traditional media brands. About Work, like Parent Soup, will feature all original content.

About Work ads will cost the same as Parent Soup, but will focus more heavily on promotions.

Copyright May 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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