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Express.com Gets Onboard McDonald's 'Dalmatians' Promo

Express.com Inc., the No. 2 online retailer of DVDs after Amazon.com, has inked a deal with McDonald's Corp. to participate in the restaurant chain's promotion this holiday season for Walt Disney Pictures' “102 Dalmatians.”

The Los Angeles retailer, which so far has done little branding since it changed its name in March to Express.com from DVDExpress.com, will offer 102 DVDs, 102 CDs and a Panasonic portable DVD player as some of the prizes in McDonald's Win on the Spot Game peel-and-scratch promotion.

In return, Express.com's logo and prize images are featured on two of three McDonald's fry boxes, the 32-oz. and 42-oz. drink cups, tray liners, in-store point-of-sale and on all bags. The contest runs through Dec. 21 in the 20,000-odd McDonald's restaurants nationwide and in Puerto Rico.

“Being visible in the key holiday season where people right now are just starting their main holiday shopping is important,” said Susan Daniher, vice president of marketing at Express.com.

“For online, the key period is between now and mid-December. There's a drop-off right round the 15th of December because people still aren't quite sure of the Internet and shipping time, and for us, this is key for any branding we're going to do.”

To participate, consumers must buy any extra value meal, a large fries or a large drink. Players are required to peel the game card from the packaging and scratch off the three silver areas. If the three spots match, the consumer wins the designated prize.

The McDonald's promotion targets families and kids for Disney's sequel to the 1996 live-action release of “101 Dalmatians.”

Prizes besides music, movies and equipment from Express.com include $102,000 in cash, a Land Rover Discovery Series II SD sport utility vehicle and 102 gas fill-ups, and a Kenwood 200 CD changer. McDonald's also will give away certificates and cash prizes valued at $1 to $10 and a free meal on a future visit.

For Express.com, the McDonald's tie-in is a departure from past marketing practices. Working under tight budgetary constraints, the retailer has limited branding plugs to targeted ads in DVD-enthusiast or entertainment magazines.

“The challenge for us was, how do we reach as many people as possible with our name and what we sell without a Super Bowl ad or something insanely expensive, and what we found was this opportunity with McDonald's,” Daniher said.

In fact, Express.com did not pay McDonald's any cash to participate in the promo, offering only the free prizes.

Daniher said the deal was conceived in May at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles when she bumped into an executive from Simon Marketing, McDonald's promotions agency in Chicago.

“The benefit to McDonald's is, one, they have prizes that their customers would find enticing to participate, and secondly, we handle our own fulfillment, making it easier in turn to fulfill prize-winner product,” Daniher said. “So, they don't have to work through bricks-and-mortar.”

Express.com will send the winners a list of products based on the retailer's internal catalog. Winners select from that list and the retailer directly ships from its warehouse.

“In our situation we have 6,500-plus DVD items … and 250,000 music titles to choose from versus a bricks-and-mortar retailer which can only handle a limited amount of inventory and in turn a limited amount of prize choices,” Daniher said.

The 3 1/2-year-old Express.com sells DVDs, CDs, studio merchandise, games and electronics. Last month it attracted an estimated 1.2 million unique visitors, according to an average based on numbers from PC Data Online, Media Metrix and Express.com's inhouse Web log.

Express.com is in negotiations with three other undisclosed traditional brands to leverage their offline clout and push DVD and CD sales.

And it is not just the customers of those partners that Express.com will target. In McDonald's case, for instance, it also is reaching out to 750,000 restaurant employees nationwide through their newsletter.

“This is a different marketing tactic compared to doing regular TV or print ads,” said Barrett LaMothe Ladd, senior retail analyst at Gomez Advisors, Lincoln, MA. “This is a unique way to acquire new customers. They're able to market to all of McDonald's employees as well as McDonald's customers. The key is to drive traffic this fourth quarter, and this is one way to do it.”

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