Venture-Backed Commerce Sites Banking on TV Ads to Lure Big Audiences

Search engine optimization, Google AdWords and email lists are all essential components of online campaigns, but several e-commerce companies are giving mass media a whirl.

Slightly ahead of the holidays, a handful of venture-backed companies have announced TV advertising campaigns, including One Kings Lane, Fab.com, OpenSky, Gilt Groupe and Wayfair.

All of the companies are hoping to see a lift in sales and increased brand awareness, but the immediate beneficiaries of this trend will clearly be TV networks that have strong female demographics, like Bravo, the Food Network, HGTV, E! Entertainment, Oxygen, Lifetime and TLC.

The advertising campaigns could cost anywhere from tens of thousands to millions, depending on the ads and how often they are going to run, but many of the companies are being conservative and labeling the launches as experiments.

The options range wildly between Wayfair’s 30-second spot, which was developed in-house for $30,000, and One Kings Lane’s two 30-second spots created by the premiere ad agency Wieden+Kennedy New York. Meanwhile, OpenSky is characterizing its commercial as a “modest test,” and Gilt Groupe said it hired Ocean Media, the agency behind ad campaigns for Priceline.com, Overstock.com and Angie’s List. Fab.com planned to run its ad in six U.S. markets for three weeks and then take it national if it was satisfied with results.

What’s interesting is that the campaigns are trying to drive traffic to the companies’ mobile sites and applications, capturing the behavior of viewers who sit on the sofa and watch TV with their phone or tablet in hand. That trend has been coined “couch commerce.”

For example, in Gilt Groupe’s minute-long spot called “High Noon,” one cowgirl is able to order a sparkling pair of pumps in a desert shootout because she uses the app to pull the trigger faster.

Wayfair said it’s also hoping to see a significant increase in mobile traffic. After launching its first ad campaign in September, Wayfair saw a traffic lift in the five minutes following the commercial. It said 35 percent of traffic was coming from mobile phones and tablets versus 13 percent normally. The home decor site’s Black Friday commercial (which is not too shabby, considering the budget), started running in late October.

The biggest indicator of whether these commercials actually pay off will be if they are still around in any significant way in the New Year, or if they will be short-lived tests. The one drawback for any of these boutique shopping sites is Amazon’s dominance in e-commerce during the holidays. As I wrote earlier today, 53 percent of U.S. consumers are planning to begin their Christmas shopping at the mega retailer.

But potentially, if the advertisements are creative and just darn cute enough, they could help change that behavior.

Below are the Wayfair and One Kings Lane commercials (others are linked above):


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