IAR Bits and Bytes

MSN, First USA Promote Visa Card

Redmond, Wash.-based Web portal MSN will promote a co-branded card with Bank One Corp.’s First USA, through a deal announced Tuesday.

The card is the first to bear MSN’s name and butterfly logo, as well as the trademark of Microsoft Corp., which owns MSN.

The MSN Titanium Visa credit card is also being used to promote two Microsoft services. In addition to special introductory rates, signing up for the card also gives users six months free MSN Internet Access service and a complimentary version of Microsoft’s Money 2002 software.

Additionally, cardmembers’ accounts will be accessible through MSN.

Furthermore, MSN and FirstUSA said they would create an offline and online marketing campaign to promote the offering, including banner ads running on the portal’s homepage and other MSN properties like Carpoint, Home Advisor, MSNBC, Women Central, CNBC on MSN Money and Gaming Zone.

These banner ads include two of MSN’s new enRiched rich media ad formats — a “scratch-off” creative, and a banner that expands on mouseover. In addition, the companies will launch a direct mail and email campaigns to support the campaign.

Catalog Marketing Services Acquires Prefer Network

Catalog Marketing Services has bought certain assets of Alley-based Prefer Network in a deal that nets it a chunk of cutting edge experience, as well as products focused on helping catalog merchants with online commerce.

Neither company released details of the transaction, which grew out of a strategic alliance the two struck back in June. The deal has all the markings of a marriage between older, static, traditional database marketing techniques and a Web-era maker of dynamic, collaborative database prospecting technology deployed by catalog merchants.

Both companies said they would operate independently and continue joint product development and marketing for the consumer catalog industry.

Doug Platt, the chief executive and one of the founders of Prefer Network, said he expects the deal to boost both companies’ ability to find new ways of serving their mutual and individual customers.

The St. Paul, Minn.-based Catalog Marketing Services is privately-held and close to 20 years old. It provides integrated marketing lists and and services targeted to catalog merchants, including list processing and data “scrubbing” to ensure prospect information is up-to-date.

The two-year-old Prefer basically takes its clients’ product database information and creates new techniques that drive clients’ offers to the right traffic-creators — kind of a twist on the usual drill of driving traffic to a site. The company’s clients have included catalog and offline merchants J.Jill, Restoration Hardware and Palm Beach jewelry.

Using customer and product data, Prefer targets offers to a bevy of distribution sites such as search engines, or name-your-price e-commerce sites, with the information varying depending on the demographic the catalog retailer is trying to reach. The company takes about a 20 percent commission on each sale it helps facilitate.

Platt said Prefer Network will continue to be headquartered in New York and existing management and organizational structures would remain in place with Ken Johnson as CEO and Pat Minton as president of CMS; Doug Platt will serve as CEO and Richard Black as president of Prefer Network.

Minton said Prefer Network has a unique approach to helping catalogers select prospect names and reactivate house names with a precision not possible elsewhere. The strategic and list processing services of CMS “completes the circle for catalogers.”

The deal also looks like it gives Prefer a lifeboat in otherwise dire straits, especially with e-commerce companies looking at an even tougher funding environment following the events of Sept. 11th.

Prefer had raised over $12 million in two financing rounds prior to the acquisition. Its backers included Desai Capital Management Inc., Prospect Street Ventures, Draper Richards, eCom Partners, and Pennell Venture Partners. Also contributing to prior funding rounds were Stonehenge Capital, BNY Capital Markets, Inc., Foster Management Co., and individual investor Rick Black.

Cybereps Scores Ad Deal with AccuWeather.com

Advertising sales and marketing company Cybereps on Tuesday announced a deal to perform outside online ad sales for high-profile content site AccuWeather.com.

Cybereps, which specializes in ad sales, marketing and streaming media sales for content sites, said it would run cross-media campaigns for AccuWeather, including sales with radio stations, sweepstakes, billboards and sponsored email messages.

AccuWeather provides personalized local and international weather reports, including current conditions, forecasts, satellite images, and data in graphic and text formats.

The company said it would also power promotions and sales packages with other online sales groups within Interep Interactive, its parent company. The deal would allow advertisers to run campaigns on AccuWeather.com Weather Triggered Marketing, Category Targeting or Run of Site ad placements.

For Cybereps, the AccuWeather deal adds a high-profile content site to its roster. AccuWeather styles itself as the “World’s Weather Authority” and has already expanded its Web offerings to other media, including television.

“The AccuWeather brand is well-established across the various media and we continue to work to solidify our branding in a variety of ways, such as the national advertising campaign we are currently airing to deliver our message of ‘AccuWeather.com – Use it, link to it, or buy it for your site’,” AccuWeather president Joel Myers said.

In 2000, AccuWeather said it served more than 4.4 million unique visitors and 40 million page views a month.

Among the 80 firms within its client base, Cybereps — which is owned by radio ad rep firm Interep — boasts sites like Totaltech.com, Future Games Network, Totalwoman.com, Reuters, AutoWorld.com, BizReport, RadioWave, WebBuilderZone and HowStuffWorks.

Unicast Names Five New Members to Strategic Advisory Board

New York-based rich media ad firm Unicast has named five new members to its strategic Advisory Board. The additions to the two Advisory Board committees include executives from Ask Jeeves, DoubleClick, Agency.com’s i-traffic, Johnson & Johnson, and Bcom3’s Starcom IP.

i-traffic, Johnson and Johnson, and Starcom IP join the firm’s Agency & Advertiser Committee, which focuses on pinpointing what motivates companies to increase spending in online advertising. Current committee members include Intel , Digitas and Nextel.

Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves and DoubleClick are new members of Unicast’s Partner Committee, which concentrates on reviewing the feedback of the Agency & Advertiser Committee and suggests ways to make the entire online buying and measurement process easier and more efficient — ultimately, benefiting ad technology providers like Unicast.

Others on the Partner Committee include AOL Time Warner and Snowball.com.

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