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Fall Brings Big Sites to Campus

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Student Advantage Helps Textbooks.com Enter Growing Category
BOSTON--As college kids prepare to return to class, Textbooks.com and a bevy of Web-based competitors are vying for their business with ad campaigns and on-campus promotions.
More than 250 representatives from Boston-based marketing firm Student Advantage will hit large colleges nationwide, including Boston University, to hand out mugs, T-shirts and other gifts emblazoned with the online retailer's Web address and tagline, "College just got easier."
That tagline also will appear in $8-10 million worth of print, outdoor, Internet and radio ads created by Textbooks.com's agency of record, TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York.
Textbooks.com, Student Advantage and TBWA/C/D worked together to plan the campaign, said Student Advantage senior account manager Tricia Black. "We were really involved from the ground up," she said.
Ads for the New York-based client, a unit of Barnes & Noble, will continue through the first few weeks of fall classes and be reprised for the new semester in January, when the second round of book buying begins.
Ecampus.com, whose site went live July 2, has launched a $23 million ad push through DeVito/Verdi, New York. The humorous campaign, now airing in Boston and other markets across the country, includes a TV spot featuring a desperate young man on the telephone demanding a ransom from the parents of a college student. The "kidnapper" is revealed to be the student himself, unable to afford textbooks and the like.
Another ad for Lexington, Ky.-based Ecampus.com shows a destitute student frying up his goldfish for dinner. The effort promises that the site provides "textbooks and stuff" at low prices and with less hassle than college bookstores.
Efollett.com, a unit of Follett Corp. in River Grove, Ill., just broke its own $10 million multimedia ad campaign, created by Tom Reilly Advertising in Evanston, Ill. Other competitors include independent sites Bigwords.com and Varsitybooks.com.
As part of its deal with Student Advantage, Textbooks.com gains access to the more than one million students who have joined the former's discount network. Members pay $20 a year to receive discounts from 50 national and 12,000 local businesses in 115 cities. They also receive Student Advantage Magazine, a quarterly publication in which retail partners can advertise.
Textbooks.com is offering Student Advantage members a discount.