PRODUCTOPIA GETS THE WORD OUT

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — Productopia, an online source of product information and buying advice, is turning to traditional media for its new ad campaign.
The company is running its first off-line campaign — a $4 million effort comprising TV spots and outdoor and newspaper ads in New York and California.
Productopia.com made its debut in June 1999 and uses in-house and nationally recognized experts to provide product information in some 450 categories, including women’s apparel, beauty, men’s wear, home, toys, sports and baby products.
The site also has links to a price-comparison engine, auctions, group buying, top e-commerce merchants, local and off-line outlets, used merchandise through the Yellow Pages and classified ads.
It generates revenues from advertising on the site and merchant referrals, said Mark Brutten, vice president of brand marketing. He said the site is delivering over 100,000 click-throughs a month.
“We’re trying to give people a centralized source for all their [product] information,” said Brutten.
The TV spots, which began Feb. 28 and run through early April, are appearing during such shows as the “The 72nd Annual Academy Awards,” “E.R.,” “60 Minutes,” “The Late Show With David Letterman” and “Friends.” Ads are also running in the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and San Jose Mercury News, among others.
The TV ads aim to tell consumers that buying products should be fun and not a chore, according to Brutten. Each Productopia TV spot portrays shopping situations in the off-line world showing that the information typically available at point of purchase is insufficient to make a buying decision.
For instance, one spot shows a young woman who is overwhelmed by myriad choices of mountain bikes; another shows a man trying to decide which coffee maker to buy.
Productopia recommends up to nine of the best products available in each of the categories featured on the site, viewed from three perspectives: Quality Picks, Style Picks and Value Picks.
For example, in the beauty category, browsers searching for lipstick will find Bobbi Brown Essentials Lip Color, Chanel and Nars under Quality Picks; Lorac, MAC Retro Matte and Stila Lip Polish under Style Picks, and Oil of Olay, Revlon Colorstay and Tommy Hilfiger Fresh Talk under Value Picks.
Clicking on a product reveals a complete description, photos and benefits, as well as links to sites where the item can be purchased, like Bobbibrown.com, Drugstore.com, Eve.com, Sephora.com, More.com and Beautyjungle.com.
Each of the categories features user reviews, discussions and unbiased advice.
The women’s category, for example, is broken into subgroups such as dresses and skirts, knits, jackets, lingerie, handbags, shoes, jeans and T-shirts. Featured products come from such firms as Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Helmut Lang, Gucci, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Brooks Brothers, Anna Sui, Theory, Tod’s, Michael Stars, Sigerson Morrison and Lambertson Truex.
The site will show users where, in multiple outlets — online and in traditional stores — various products can be purchased. Clicking on Tod’s shoes, for example, yields Tod’s toll-free number and a referral to Neiman Marcus; browsers searching for a handbag who click on a Lambertson Truex style are referred to Ashford.com or Bergdorf Goodman (by phone).
Based in San Francisco, Productopia has strategic distribution relationships with AOL, Snap and Cox Interactive, as well as more than 60 merchant partners. The company is privately owned and funded by several venture-capital firms and individuals, including @Ventures, the affiliated venture-capital arm of CMG; Bessemer Venture Partners, and RRE Ventures.
Roger Neal is president and chief executive officer and a founder of Productopia, with Rob Novotny.
Neal was formerly an executive director and general manager at America Online. Before that he was with Time Warner, in marketing and media development for Time and Life magazines.
Novotny, vice president of management, had been an executive producer at Netscape.

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