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Doritos.com Rides on 'Survivor' Coattails

To heighten awareness of its Doritos tortilla chips, Frito-Lay Inc. has launched two fantasy games on Doritos.com along with its sponsorship of CBS-TV's “Survivor: The Australian Outback.”

This marks PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay's first Internet media foray besides banners, chats at doritos.com and sponsorships in conjunction with partners such as Yahoo. Costing $75,000, the online gaming concept was created by ad agency Frankel, Chicago, and developed by Small World Media Inc., New York.

“We've got a pretty significant investment in the `Survivor' property, and it's an important part of our media platform,” said Don Helms, associate brand manager at Frito-Lay, Plano, TX. “So what we're trying to do is leverage that in every which way we can.”

Helms said many fans of the popular “Survivor” series also are consumers of Doritos, which commands nearly half of the estimated $2 billion tortilla chip market. Tostitos, another Frito-Lay product, is the next-biggest player in tortilla chips.

Consumers can visit the Doritos.com site and register to play two games. Fantasy Survivor allows visitors to build a team from the 16 “Survivor” contestants and track their performance through the 13-episode show. “Survivor” kicks off Jan. 28 immediately after the Super Bowl broadcast and ends April 19.

“You have to come on each week and make your picks, and as the weeks go along, you'll be earning points based on your predictions right up until episode 13, at which point the person with the most points wins a prize,” said Mark Jacobstein, CEO of Small World Media.

Frito-Lay will mail a coupon for a free Doritos bag to 100 weekly high-scorers and will offer a grand prize of $10,000 for accumulating the most points.

In the other game, Reward Round, consumers have to predict who will be voted off the show each week. Those who guess correctly are entered in a random drawing. Frito-Lay will mail these winners coupons for a bag of Doritos chips.

“Other fantasy sports games average about 80 minutes per month per person who plays this, and we're hoping to see something similar with the Doritos games,” Jacobstein said.

In business since 1994, Small World develops online fantasy sports games. Clients include NBCi, Terra Lycos, AltaVista Co., FoxSports, Delta Air Lines and MSNBC. Frito-Lay is its first major national advertiser client for which it has tailor-made games.

The deal between Frito-Lay and Small World Media arguably is one of the rare instances of adapting an online gaming model to a non-sports property. The goal is to increase the consumer's interaction with the Doritos brand.

“Ideally we would have linked it to purchase and done some other things, but because of the timing [of the show] we were able to pull this together,” Helms said. “It's really more based on leveraging the media and association approach.

“So it's really about engaging consumers in an interactive way, getting them to spend some time interacting with the property and sort of cementing Doritos' consumption with this sort of social TV-watching occasion that `Survivor' presents to our consumers.”

The online effort targets the typical Doritos consumer ages 16 to 24.

“We think there's a lot of overlap,” Frito-Lay's Helms said. “It probably skews a little bit older than our core target, but we still capture a great deal of our target. And our consumption on Doritos is so broad, it fleshes across all age and demographic brackets.”

The tactics not only will boost awareness of the Doritos brand, but also will drive traffic to the site, Helms said. Launched in February 1998, Doritos.com now records an estimated 100,000 unique visitors a month. Traffic last year was up between 50 percent and 60 percent from the previous year.

A Red Alert month-long sweepstakes promotion for registration last month on Yahoo's home page attracted attention and boosted e-mail addresses. Doritos.com now has nearly 40,000 e-mail addresses in its database.

Visitors to the Doritos site can find information on band chats, brand events, e-mail newsletters and, now, interactive games. The site itself is designed to look hip, with colorful graphics and rich media.

For the “Survivor” promotion, Frito-Lay will support the online games with banners on CBS' 'Survivor' site and smallworld.com. The plan also calls for stickers on Doritos bags and extensive point-of-sale support involving grocery, mass merchandise and convenience stores nationwide.

Beyond that, there is little marketing hard sell.

“It's not a straight volume-driving promotional idea,” Helms said. “It's really something that's more about building a relationship with consumers, interacting one-on-one.

“Hopefully we can learn a little more about our online users,” he added, “so we can build our database and start to do more database-type efforts perhaps in the future. There are some elements that make it appealing. Secondly, it's not a terribly expensive way for us to try this out.”

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