eBay launches national TV ad campaign

No matter what holiday product is hot, the e-auctioneer wants people to know it's for sale at eBay, a site better known for unusual collectibles and flea-market sales.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
3 min read
No matter what holiday product is hot--whether it's the Xbox 360 or iPod Nano--eBay wants people to know it's for sale at eBay, a site better known for hard-to-find collectibles and flea-market sales.

That's the message of eBay's new national TV advertising campaign, which is only the third in the auctioneer's 10-year history and a relative rarity among surviving Web retailers. eBay's ad campaign also stands out at a time when the lines between search engines like Google and online stores like Amazon.com are blurring further, and that melding is heightening rivalries among all of the most trafficked sites.

The campaign, "You can get 'It' on eBay," is a play on the cultural zeitgeist created by the annual mad dash by consumers to get the newest, hippest products, like Furby, for example. The ads, which will begin in the coming months and run into 2006, will blanket popular television shows like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," magazines like Time and Rolling Stone, and Web sites like Yahoo and MSN.

One of the campaign's objectives will be to direct shoppers to eBay's site as a search tool, rather than merely as the store to which other search engines Google, for example, might point. Consumers often start their shopping process by using a search engine.

"What it will do is slightly change people's perception--when it comes to their first consideration, if they've decided on something to buy--of going to a search environment like Google or mega-retailer like Amazon," said Tim Hanlon, senior vice president of Starcom Mediavest Group, a Chicago-based advertising agency.

"Now they might consider eBay to do the same," he said.

In contrast, Google does not advertise on TV or in mainstream publications. Amazon and Yahoo have only rarely run massive TV advertising campaigns.

eBay started TV commercial "teasers" last week during the National League championships. Teasers are a prelude to the ad's story, but they don't mention eBay specifically. This week, new commercials shown during the World Series and "Survivor" will unveil the source.

The company would not give details about its spending, but Kevin McSpadden, eBay's director of advertising and brand strategy, said the campaign is a mix of the Web, television and print. The campaign, created by New York agencies BBDO and Agency.com, also includes a micro-site with online commercials that can be customized or emailed to friends.

The company's last TV campaign commemorated the company's ninth anniversary by touting its community of buyers and sellers. And in commercials during holiday 2002, it urged people to shop online.

"What we wanted to do was get back into a stronger call-to-action and broaden people's perspective on what they can buy on eBay," McSpadden said.

One of the print ads shows a giant rainbow-colored, wooden "It" in eBay's signature brand colors. Next to the "It," are search terms like "coffee table," "baseball bat," and "pipe." The intended meaning: whatever's made of wood, you can find it on eBay.

In the end, it's all to lure shoppers.

"We're looking forward to generating traffic," McSpadden said.