Webvan Launches TV, Radio Spots

Grocery delivery service-turned “Web courier” Webvan launched a new television ad campaign on Wednesday, designed to support a new positioning and a run to profitability.

The spots, will run in nine markets nationally — San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Chicago and Atlanta — and were designed by the Publicis Group’s Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco.

The three TV spots, along with radio spots, online ads, direct mail and an out-of-door campaign, are aimed at positioning Webvan as the solution to busy people’s lives. The 30-second spots depict parents who are too busy running errands to do the things they like.

The media buy includes prime time network and cable programming in all nine markets.

Radio ads breaking later this month portray local couriers from each market who give tips on how consumers can spend their free time — since they no longer have to go to the store. Each spot will be tagged with a retail message touting Webvan value, quality and selection.

Spending was not disclosed.

The move comes as Foster City, Calif.-based Webvan is tweaking its model from a grocery delivery service to a “personalized courier service” that delivers products — purchased off its Web site — to customers’ homes “within a timeframe of their choosing.”

In addition to groceries, the company also carries electronics, CDs, books and pet supplies — promising 60-minute delivery.

However, the company is most closely associated with its online grocery purchasing and delivery business, which was the subject of two previous ad campaigns. Distancing itself from that association, company executives in November said that Webvan was more of a provider of the “last mile” in e-commerce, and rolled out a new logo.

But in the wake of the closing of its Dallas service to cut costs, Webvan’s attempts to reposition itself as a time-saving service rather an online grocery-ordering site comes as the company is facing an impending cash crunch.

In its fourth quarter report, the company posted a pro forma loss of $109.1 million. And with $211.8 million in cash and marketable securities, that gives the firm two quarters at its current burn rate. Executives have admitted the need for extra cash, and promise an infusion sometime in mid-2001.

“Webvan’s current marketing efforts are intensely focused on households with kids and communicating how webvan.com can give them back their precious time,” said Webvan’s vice president for marketing, Doug Herrington. “We have an aggressive, integrated marketing plan that includes a mix of vehicles designed to surround our target consumers with messages that we believe will resonate with them.”

“We are listening to the strong feedback we get from our customers about how Webvan has enhanced their lives and are translating that into marketing initiatives aimed at retaining and attracting customers,” Herrington added.

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