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Angling to increase customer acquisition and brand awareness of its educational store for children and parents, Inc. has named Orsatti & Partners, Boston, to handle its $5 million-plus advertising account in a pitch involving two other undisclosed local shops.

Orsatti's responsibilities include creating online and offline advertising, direct marketing, customer communications and marketing support materials. SmarterKids will plan and buy offline media, while Hook Media, Boston, will negotiate and track online media.

"We have a very strong point of difference in the marketplace," said Evelyn Somers, senior vice president of marketing at SmarterKids. "We're much more than a toy store. We're an educational marketplace, and we want to get that message across."

Though there was no incumbent, Mullen, Wenham, MA, handled TV and print work for SmarterKids in the fourth quarter last year.

"Their strengths might have been more in [traditional] media that we're not going to focus on," Somers said. "Hook is interactive and Orsatti has been direct response, so I went after their background."

A full-service agency, Orsatti offers services such as branding, creative, database marketing, information management, media and e-commerce development, and strategic planning. Its clients include Fidelity Investments, Be Free, KaBloom, and

Founded almost two years ago in Needham, MA, SmarterKids matches a child's learning style with teacher-reviewed toys, music, books, software, videos and games. The retailer caters to children up to age 15.

Revenues posted in the second quarter were $1.5 million, Somers said, adding that 47 percent of sales are from repeat buyers. recently ranked SmarterKids its favorite toy site. Forrester Research said SmarterKids was the easiest-to-use site in the toys and games category, and Gomez Advisors ranked it the No. 1 educational toy site for three successive quarters.

"People who know about us love us," Somers said. "We want more people to know about us. That's why we changed both of our agencies."

Hook Media was named to the interactive account in July, replacing Carat Freeman North America, Newton, MA.

The retailer for its online efforts will use banners, searches, integrated placements and sponsorships, and e-mail marketing.

"We're really moving away from the broad mass media as a strategy and getting into interactive because of the effectiveness and control," Somers said.

Offline, it will cross-market with other retailers to insert coupons in their packages. It will include coupons in its own packages as well. One of its partners in this coupon drop is The Children's Place, an apparel store chain for children., a luggage seller, is another partner that trades slots with SmarterKids for coupons in both retailers' e-mails.

"The guiding principle here is trying to reach people who've shopped online," Somers said, "and that's the problem of the broad-scale approach of mass media. Less than 2 percent of toys are purchased online, and we want to change that with interactive media. There's very little overlap in online shopping between categories."
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