eBay Breaks With New TV Campaign

Online auction site eBay plans to break with a new TV ad campaign Wednesday evening.

The campaign will feature two 30-second spots and regional newspaper creative. The campaign was designed by a dot-com favorite, San Francisco’s Goodby, Silverstein and Partners. Spending was not disclosed.

The two television creatives — “Dogs” and “New House” — will aim to “drive home the point that you can find practically any item you desire on eBay,” said Henry Gomez, vice president for corporate communications for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Although the pioneering online auction company has relied heavily on word-of-mouth and grassroots marketing, it has made scant use of mass media advertising. eBay received national airtime when it co-sponsored a spot with Visa International. That work, featuring a husband buying his own lamp from his wife, was created by Visa’s agency, BBDO.

“Why we’re testing [television advertising] now is that we feel the Internet has reached the critical mass when it makes sense to go out to a mass audience,” Gomez said. “A lot of dot-coms in the past went out and advertised before it achieved critical mass.”

“Now,” Gomez said, through television, “you can reach enough people who are on the Internet to make it worthwhile.”

The new ads will run nationwide on every broadcast and network station in primetime and late-night spots, beginning Wednesday evening. Buys include “ER”, “Spin City”, “Dateline” and the NFL playoffs. Spots will run to the end of the year, at which point regional cable spots will pick up in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

“In ‘Dogs,’ you have our favorite pets breaking, hiding, losing or devouring items we all care about,” said Gomez. “And the idea is that if it’s lost, you can find it cheaply on eBay.”

“New House” reprises that theme with a family who moves into a new home — only to find all of its appliances and furniture coming apart. Luckily, “everything that breaks is available on eBay, from plates to washing machines,” Gomez said.

Similarly themed print ads also will run in regional newspapers, including the New York Daily News, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe.

The overall campaign “drives home the point [that] anything you might want, its almost certainly available on eBay, at a very good value and pretty good quantities,” Gomez said.

In 1998, the company launched a print and radio campaign designed by Acme Idea Company, a Norwalk, Conn. boutique. That campaign aired on about 10,000 stations nationwide. Print ads ran in national entertainment and general interest magazines (including Parade, Entertainment Weekly, and Sports Illustrated, in addition to collector and hobbyist publications.

Since that work in support of its debut, eBay has kept its brand- and awareness-building efforts fairly under-the-radar. Opting instead for partnerships — with the Cartoon Network, for one — and mentions on popular primetime television shows like “The West Wing,” eBay has shied away from big-budget promotions — making Wednesday’s launch of a new TV ad campaign so significant.

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