Web still a secret to Victoria

The media blitz that Victoria’s Secret used to hype its first-ever live on-line fashion show paid off, creating high demand at its Web site.

But that success also posed a problem because the high traffic volume meant some viewers were unable to see supermodels such as Stephanie Seymour and Tyra Banks strut down the catwalk in the latest lingerie from the retailer.

Earlier this month, the heavily promoted New York fashion show featuring Victoria’s Secret’s spring lineup took place on-line via broadcast.com and attracted 1.5 million visitors, a broadcast.com spokeswoman said.

Broadcast.com received some e-mail complaints from disappointed viewers, she said. She added that most of the complaints came from America Online Inc. (AOL) users and that broadcast.com is looking into those problems, she said.

The Victoria’s Secret site was launched last December to take advantage of holiday shopping. But one analyst called the new marketing campaign “aggressive.”

Because the on-line fashion show featured supermodels and the company paid for an expensive ad placement during the Super Bowl game, Victoria’s Secret “had to expect a significant amount of traffic,” said Melissa Bain, an analyst at Yankee Group Inc. in Boston.

Bain said the company’s on-line efforts offered an “attractive combination.” But, she added, because of “technology limitations, it’s not the ideal experience” quite yet.

Slowdowns and bottlenecks greeted some visitors to the site, but the site “never went down,” claimed Brian Doyle, a spokesman for IBM Global Services, which provided Web hosting and electronic-commerce software for the site.

Doyle declined to say whether the site’s visitors aimed for the on-line store or the fashion show but called the numbers “astronomical.”

Some users complained about the quality of the fashion show’s video and sound, but the broadcast.com spokeswoman responded that “technology has to catch up with the ideas.”

Officials at Victoria’s Secret, which is owned by Intimate Brands Inc., didn’t return phone calls by deadline.

The lingerie company promoted the Internet fashion show with ads in newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, and made its biggest splash with a 30-second TV spot during the Super Bowl game.

The ad campaign led to a tremendous amount of “heavy volume to the electronic-commerce site, which wasn’t configured for that sort of volume,” Doyle said. After the game, sessions including tens of thousands of visitors led officials to tweak the site to handle additional traffic, he added.

To handle the volume, IBM changed the Victoria’s Secret site from a shared network infrastructure to a dedicated one, said Brian Ditzler, a spokesman for IBM Global Services. Shared hubs were changed to dedicated switches, and local directors and firewalls were upgraded to handle more capacity, Ditzler said.

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