Attendees at a recent Internet conference were, well, bowled over to find that one exhibitor had laid claim to the toilets.

A Connecticut company had bought exclusive rights to promote itself as the official "bathroom sponsor" at a Jupiter Communications event. And promote it did, posting its signs on rest-room walls and on stall doors. Even behind closed doors there was no escape: more ads decorated the inside of each stall.

And in a modern twist on the gift-with-purchase concept, company employees gave departing rest-room patrons bottles of spring water labeled with the company's name.

Which, by the way, was FloNetwork.

John Carroll, a media critic and managing editor of WGBH's Greater Boston TV program, says marketing in bathrooms is inevitable in an era in which companies buy ads on airport baggage carousels. The free spring water, though -- that's a first. The message, Carroll says: "Not only did we catch you in here with all our ads, but we're going to make sure you come back real soon."

FloNetwork, of Greenwich, Conn., an E-mail marketing company, couldn't agree more. "You have a captive audience," corporate communications director Beth Ghiloni says cheerfully.

But others remain unconvinced about the taste of powder-room promotions. Sniffs Carroll: "They're called privies for a reason."