Want to know how to reinvigorate excitement about the Web, at a time when most e-tailing stocks are in the toilet?
Here's the secret: attractive women in Cannes. In their underwear.
unit threw its second annual fashion show Webcast Thursday. It attracted about 2 million viewers between the preshow, the live show itself, and archived version, IBI said, compared with between 1 million and 1.5 million viewers last year. (Thursday's figure is an estimate culled from site sampling, the company said.)
Last February, during the first Webcast, the view was less than titillating. Tech issues plagued the site -- some of the people who tuned in couldn't see it at all, while others saw only freeze-frame images instead of seamless slinks down the catwalk.
Victoria's Secret risked going the way of
, which was plagued with site outages during last year's holiday season and became a poster child for bricks-and-mortar incompetence on the Web.
This year, IBI tried to prepare itself. It teamed with
to boost capacity. It created an "e-lounge" where overflow crowds were sent to see snippets of model Heidi Klum packing her valise for Cannes.
IBI also added e-commerce. When models walked down the runway, viewers had the chance to add items "inspired" by the show to a shopping basket, then check out after the show. (The gigantic wings pinned on some of the models were, unhappily, not for sale.) The company was "not very aggressive" about the e-commerce component -- this was more a branding exercise than a moneymaker, says John Morris, an analyst with
Gerard Klauer Mattison
. (He rates the shares a buy and his firm hasn't done banking for the company.)
Still, "as technology improves, we may see if there are interesting applications online," says Annemarie Blaire, director of Internet brand development for IBI. "If we can provide a fabulous commercial -- great I love that, then we'll do it, but not until the technology is ready," she says.
IBI said the Webcast cost between $9 million and $10 million, or about 6% to 7% of its annual marketing and ad budget. But the brand payoff (including, er, free press) was great, says Morris. Shareholders didn't see it as a rainmaker, however. Shares in IBI, one of the few retailers to weather the recent storm in the group, fell 3/4 to close at 44 91/6 Thursday.
And what did it look like? Well, the action took place on a screen about 2-by-2-inches big. The first few minutes were taken up by a blurrier-than-usual
giving a keynote address (the show was part of a fundraiser for the
American Foundation for AIDS Research
). And when the models did appear, on such a small scale and with less-than-perfect resolution, they still looked more like Lara Croft than pinups. Frankly, the IBI annual report (which features one model wearing nothing more than a pair of those ubiquitous big wings) was a whole lot more provocative.
But not for clients of Gerard Klauer Mattison the indignities of squinting at a small screen! The firm hosted its own viewing, with a presentation by Victoria's Secret management and then a satellite broadcast of the show on a 6-by-6-foot screen, says analyst Morris. He estimated the crowd at about 50 clients (and 20 GKM-ers). "For a New York-centered event, midday, and at the end of earnings season, that's very good," he says. "My director of research just gave me a big thumbs-up."