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CRITIQUE: Someday the Real Aroma plug-in will be a reality and we'll finally have the Web's killer app: scratch 'n' sniff. But we have the first step now in a contest sponsored by music retailer CDnow.

Using a new Java-based solution from RealTime Media, consumers who make a purchase at CDnow get a game piece that, using their mouse, they can scratch off and see if they're an instant winner. Instant prizes include gift certificates, phone cards and T-shirts. Every winner is also entered in drawings for vacation packages and the grand prize of $1 million in cash.

Not bad for a marketer that by all accounts is bleeding money.

Well, perhaps it is bad for the marketer, but it's great for the consumer. CDnow has long been an innovator in terms of its online promotions. Taking advantage of a broad range of grass-roots efforts, promotions, contests and partnerships, CDnow has built a substantial market base. In the meantime, consumers can get great deals at the expense of CDnow's bottom line.

This contest, supported by ads on Yahoo! and radio, should help raise CDnow's profile even more. It allows entry from outside the U.S. and the big jackpot will draw users new and old to pick up their CDs from this retailer.

By upping the ante, CDnow might just force its competitors to plunk down other heavy cash prizes if they want to do more than just scratch the surface of the online market.

WHO CREATED IT: RealTime Media, Haverford, Penn. (

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