Free Long Distance Service Partners with Ad Agency

Fueled by a successful trial of ad-backed Internet phone service FreeWay, launched in Pittsburgh on April 6, BroadPoint Communications and Duquesne Enterprises signed a partnership deal with media marketing and sales company Media AdVentures.

Through Media AdVentures, several top advertisers have already joined the ranks of FreeWay sponsors, including Blockbuster Entertainment, The Wall Street Journal and Acura, bringing the total number of FreeWay advertisers to more than 30, the companies said.

FreeWay allows subscribers to make free long distance calls in the U.S. in exchange for listening to 10- to 15-second commercial messages tailored to their particular interests.

“The success of our trial has been driven by the simple fact that both consumers and advertisers want FreeWay to succeed,” said Perry Kamel, BroadPoint’s CEO. Membership in the limited trial already has exceeded 10,000, the company said.

“Nearly 10 percent of our members have contacted us just to thank us for providing the service,” said Martin Healy, vice president of consumer marketing at BroadPoint. “Many of them also express their appreciation for the sponsors who make the service possible.”

And advertisers would appear to be happy, too. “Eagle’s Eye has had an unprecedented response rate of 27 percent from our FreeWay campaign for ladies sweaters,” said Devon Colby of Eagle’s Eye Sportswear, a charter FreeWay advertiser.

“After a full three months in the market, the average household income of FreeWay members remains over $60,000 per year, more than 70 percent higher than the Pittsburgh average,” said Thomas Hurkmans, president of Duquesne Enterprises, an affiliate of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne Light Co.

The companies are teaming up with Chicago-based Media AdVentures to accelerate the adoption of the new medium among top advertisers.

“Media AdVentures brings an uncommon blend of expertise in interactive and audio media. The two companies are very well suited to working together in this exciting new domain,” said Lisa Baker, vice president of media marketing for BroadPoint.

A national roll-out is being planned, but the service is currently available only to residents of greater Pittsburgh. Residents of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas can subscribe to FreeWay by accessing BroadPoint’s Web site or by calling BroadPoint’s toll-free subscription hotline at 888/4FREEWAY. BroadPoint has partnered with Duquesne Enterprises in introducing FreeWay, the first in a series of sponsored communications services. The company plans to extend the concept into new venues including wireless and multimedia communications.

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