Ebay launches ad blitz ahead of holiday season

Campaign inspires trust about auction sites

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SHANGHAI--EBay has launched a $10 million marketing blitz in China, home to millions of Internet users, to help the auction site make inroads in that fast-growing Internet market, as well as inspire greater trust about the notion of online shopping among wary consumers.

EBay’s “major marketing push," as Meg Whitman, eBay’s president-CEO, has described the initiative, precedes China’s largest holiday season, Chinese New Year, which falls in late January next year. But the campaign, created by Saatchi & Saatchi’s Shanghai office, will run for at least seven months. Media was handled by Motivator, a media alliance in Asia/Pacific formed by Havas-owned Euro RSCG and WPP Group’s MindShare.

Rex Chiang, eBay’s Shanghai-based head of user marketing in China, hopes the initial 60” spot will be seen by 100 million young professional Internet users in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and other major cities, followed by broader demographic groups in later stages. The San Jose, Calif.-based company will introduce outdoor, print and Internet ads, supported by on-ground events and seasonal promotions, later this year.

Compared to eBay’s marketing in other countries, such as the U.S., where the focus is on variety of items available on the auction site, the China strategy is about trust. “When we talked to users, they still don’t trust shopping online,” said Mr. Chiang. “We want to encourage them to trust us.”

The TV spot, heavy with computer-generated special effects, shows a young Chinese man moving into an empty apartment, and therefore in need of furnishings. Through his laptop, he experiences a rich, modern worldly city full of possessions that is populated by millions of other shoppers. The imagery is a reference to the 150 million people who use eBay worldwide, said Shanghai-based Pully Chau, Saatchi’s CEO for Shanghai and Guangzhou. The Publicis Groupe agency won eBay’s advertising business last June from Ogilvy & Mather.

“The whole thing is about promoting and developing Internet shopping, which is not a daily habit or common leisure activity for young adults in China. There is a big trust issue in terms of payment arnd return policies. So the commerical was designed to introduce shopping on eBay as a fun and safe thing to do,” she said.

EBay entered the Chinese online auction market in 2003, when it acquired EachNet for $180 million. It now claims to have more than 15 million users there, who have traded more than $100 million worth of merchandise, but “we see more and more competition in China,” said Mr. Chiang.

In addition to assuring consumers, the company hopes its marketing approach will differentiate its service from other online auction sites in China, already a competitive market. Earlier this year, for example, Yahoo! paid $1 billion for a stake in the online Chinese site Alibaba, which offers free auctions and claims to have more than nine million registered users on its Taobao.com consumer site.

According to Shanghai-based research firm iResearch, China’s consumer e-commerce segment is expected to grow at 83% annually from 2004 to 2007, to become a $2.5 billion market within the next two years.

Contributing: Anabela Voi You and Normandy Madden
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