Fashion Industry Gets a Whiff of Web 2.0 Marketing

The apparel industry has long been a holdout to online advertising as other categories commit ever more dollars to the medium. Now that may be about to change, as several agencies and digital properties have begun courting fashion marketers with digital ad offerings.

A new division of Ketchum, a unit of Omnicom Group, is ramping up a service called Fashion Interactive 2.0. The new initiative will deploy brand evangelism, social networking, word-of-mouth, blogging, podcasts, and mobile communications to reach consumers, and — the company promises — deliver measured ROI to marketers. Other current efforts by “paper doll” avatar site Stardoll and, yes, a Second Life agency, aim to snare the attention of fashion brands.

Jeff Danzer, VP and group manager at Ketchum, explained that Fashion Interactive 2.0 will focus on “how to keep a brand fresh in the eyes of consumers, going out where they live and where they play.” Without sharing many details, he said the agency’s formula includes outreach to brand evangelists, content creators and consumers who frequent social shopping sites like This Next and Kaboodle, which was just acquired by Hearst. The agency is currently in talks with apparel companies, but has not identified any clients yet.

Ketchum is better known for its PR work on behalf of a roster of tech clients than it is for building programs around clothing brands. Fashion Interactive 2.0 practice head Danzer’s professional background includes the development of the brand and marketing strategy behind the men’s underwear brand 2(x)ist, and the designof iBoxer, a line of men’s underwear with a pocket for an iPod. When those projects earned him the nickname “underwear guru,” Danzer sought to apply his expertise more broadly to the apparel category, and to interactive campaign development.

Though it’s early, that may prove a wise choice. Earlier this week the founder and CEO of Kaboodle, Manish Chandra, told ClickZ News that the fashion category is now the growth leader on e-commerce and comparison shopping sites.

Virtual communities in particular appear ripe for fashion marketing. Clothing manufacturers like American Apparel have created storefronts in Second Life, and H&M is providing its clothing collections to EA’s “The Sims 2” though the expansion pack “The Sims 2 H&M Fashion Stuff.”

And this week, Stardoll, a virtual community for teen and tween girls, opened StarPlaza, an interactive galleria where girls can spend “Stardollars” to outfit their avatars, called MeDolls, with real-world fashion brands. Stardoll already has celebrity boutiques with promotional merchandise from Hilary Duff, Avril Lavigne, and Swedish pop singer Darin.

Additionally, Second Life-centric marketing firm Dynamedia is seeking brands to help develop what he calls VirtuReal, a shopping mall in Second Life where Founder and President Antonio Collier says visitors will be able to shop for real-world products.

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