iVillage Strikes Promotional Deal with Coca Cola’s Dasani

Women’s content site iVillage continues its effort to weather the sluggish online ad spending environment with a deal to create a new Web site for Coca-Cola Co.’s Dasani Bottled Water.

According to terms of the agreement, Alley-based iVillage will build an Dasani-sponsored online “community” site, containing tips and information from Dasani’s “Wellness Team” on cooking, nutrition, fitness and stress management. Dasani will also contribute customized multimedia and video streaming.

The company and the new site will be promoted through banner ad and text links in iVillage’s Health, Diet & Fitness, and Work areas.

“We are bringing Dasani, a popular Coca-Cola brand offline, to our core audience of women online through iVillage’s trusted content and branding available over the Internet,” said iVillage’s John Barbera, who is the company’s president for sales and sales marketing.

iVillage, meanwhile, will see its logo and URL appear on Dasani bottles, and on co-branded point-of-sale signage. Dasani also will link to iVillage from its Web site.

Financial specifics of the deal were not disclosed, although spokespeople described it as a multi-million dollar agreement.

Producing wholly-sponsored Web sites for traditional advertisers is an effort that portal giant Yahoo! has long trumpeted as part of its Fusion Marketing strategy. Niche sites like iVillage and Women.com (which iVillage is acquiring) have gotten on the bandwagon lately as well, with designs for sites for Clorox, Procter and Gamble, and Unilever.

“This agreement adds another blue-chip company to our roster and broadly extends the iVillage brand offline through a presence on Dasani packaging and marketing materials,” Barbera said. “This brings even more visibility to iVillage, helping women make the association between high quality products and the iVillage online community.”

The deal comes as some in the industry are rethinking whether traditional advertisers are spending their online marketing dollars wisely on creating elaborate Web sites.

A recent survey from Information Resources, Inc., suggested that creating co-branded online “communities” and “experiences” for consumer packaged and retail goods actually is less valuable than some design-intensive interactive shops contend.

Indeed, the survey suggests that these sorts of sites provide unnecessary services — and should focus on simply offering product information and coupons rather than “communities.”

Others in the industry agree. Robert Morris, client partner at iXL, told internetnews.com last week that his company has found such conclusions as IRI’s to be correct for adult-oriented brands. For kid-centric branding (say, for a breakfast cereal), Web site visitors tend to want prizes, games and communities. Otherwise, brands that hope to market to adults would do well to rethink some of their spending, he said.

“A lot of companies out there are still enamored with technology,” Morris said. “When you look at the way CPG companies are using the Web, it’s not as efficiently as they need to.”

But Dasani spokespeople disagreed, pointing to the branding potential that could accrue to the product by associating it with iVillage’s existing community.

“iVillage’s highly targeted Web community provides an excellent opportunity for Dasani to extend our brand awareness and reach a larger audience online,” said Kellam Graitcer, Dasani senior brand manager at Coca-Cola North America. “The expert advice of the Dasani Wellness Team coupled with iVillage’s deep understanding of women and the Internet will help make the Dasani pages on iVillage an attractive place for women to gather online.”

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