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Talbots Dips Toe in Web Branding

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NEW YORK Talbots has taken its first tentative step into the world of using the Internet for brand building with a Web site that lets women customize outfits for a vacation getaway.

The microsite, www.talbotsclassic.com, is an offshoot of a TV campaign Talbots kicked off Sept. 4. The spots carry the tagline, "What kind of classic are you?" Viewers are driven to the microsite, where they can customize outfits on an avatar, or online persona, and change the background scenery of their getaway. The site carries a contest that solicits an essay from visitors about why they deserve a vacation with three friends.

The microsite is the most extensive Web brand-building push yet for the retailer, according to Mary Webb, creative director at Havas' Arnold, Talbots' agency, which created the campaign and Internet site. The Talbots shopper is typically a woman in her 40s, she said.

"It took us a while to persuade them that they are ready and their customer is ready," Webb said.

In past campaigns, Talbots has relied mostly on TV, print and radio for awareness, using the Web as an e-commerce channel but not a place to engage customers, she added.

The site is somewhat reminiscent of The Gap's "Watch Me Change" destination. Arnold strove to make it as easy as possible to navigate, said Michelle Leotta, an art director on the account. Users can put new outfits on their avatar by dragging and dropping clothing and accessories. "We had to walk a fine line between making it fun and easy enough for users to know what to do," she said.

The agency also added links from each piece of clothing to the Talbots Web site, which lets users click on items to buy them. They can also e-mail friends their getaway creations. Arnold will support the campaign with banner ads.