Blue Nile Readies Big Holiday Ad Push

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While many e-commerce sites have scaled back their marketing efforts for the holiday season, diamond and fine jewelry vendor Blue Nile plans to launch a massive campaign costing $4 million to $10 million.


The campaign features the tag line, "Education. Guidance. Diamonds and Fine Jewelry" and will target television and Internet audiences.


Since the average engagement ring, one of the site's primary products, costs a buyer more than $1,000, Blue Nile has to build a certain level of trust among consumers. Television is the superior communications channel for accomplishing this, according to Kevin Keith, director of marketing at Blue Nile, Seattle.


"We're still relatively new to the consumer," said Keith. "So we're being descriptive in letting them understand what our benefits are. We're really focusing our messaging."


The commercial spots will feature "life's snapshots," like a woman's reaction when she receives the perfect ring. A voice-over will boast: "This moment made possible by a man who knows his diamonds."


To reach its target audience of men ages 25 to 49, the site will air spots during football games as well as on sports networks and during prime time. "We're one of the few e-retailers that will be on TV this year," said Keith. "We really need to have the trust. TV, more than any other medium, does that very effectively." The spots will begin airing in mid-November and run until Christmas.


Blue Nile has experience with large ad campaigns, having run a holiday campaign last year. The 1999 campaign was a branding play that focused mostly on offline channels. This year's campaign is "more balanced" as the site has made a large investment in online advertising, Keith said. "The approach we took is to make sure we integrated our marketing efforts using multiple channels so that we can connect with the consumers in the way they like to be connected with."


The site plans to run 240 million banner ad impressions throughout the holiday season, not including the agreements it has with America Online and Microsoft Network. Banners will appear on ESPN.com, NYT.com and TheStreet.com. Avenue A will serve more than 100 different pieces of creative. The most effective will receive the greatest distribution. Blue Nile will not be testing offers, as "we have no plans on discounting our products," said Keith.


The AOL and MSN deals give the site prime real estate across the two portals. The MSN deal positions Blue Nile in the premier spot within its eShop jewelry category. It also will have a presence throughout the other areas of the network and WebTV.


While Blue Nile has fully embraced the banner ad, it is down on e-mail marketing as being an effective method of reaching consumers. "We haven't found too many lists that are effective," Keith said. "If they aren't signing up on your site, they're nonqualified consumers. [Marketing] is not about getting more people to the site, it's about getting the right people to the site."


Blue Nile e-mails its database of more than 100,000 names once a month.


Radio and print advertising will play a smaller role during the campaign. On-air spots will be broadcast in more than a dozen spot markets, including Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Print ads will run in newspapers in the same cities as well as in The Wall Street Journal.


Blue Nile has unleashed the campaign to attract not only gift givers, but also men looking to pop the question. Half of all engagements occur between November and February, according to Keith.


The site hopes consumers will be attracted to its offer of an informative, low-pressure place to research and purchase fine jewelry.


"Buyers are often intimidated offline," said Keith. The average Blue Nile diamond buyer views 150 pages before making a purchase.


Blue Nile's Web site, at www.bluenile.com, launched in May 1999.
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