IAR Bits and Bytes for Monday

Tickets.com and Visa USA Ink Marketing Pact

Tickets.com and Visa USA signed a strategic alliance agreement making Visa the preferred payment method at the event ticketing site, and enhancing online security.

The companies said they would roll out integrated marketing programs to encourage Visa cardholders to take advantage of the offering of live events available through Tickets.com’s multi-channel distribution system. Visa cardholders also will be eligible for special privileges and promotions at Tickets.com.

Additionally, Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Tickets.com will become the first company to implement the Visa Payer Authentication System based on the 3D Secure Protocol, a proprietary technology that strengthens the safety and security of consumer transactions. Financial details were not disclosed.

The 3D Secure system allows customers (who have registered in advance through their card issuer) to be prompted for a password during the checkout process whenever they make a purchase on Tickets.com. The service verifies the credit card account number used in the transaction, beefing up security and reducing the chance of fraud, San Francisco-based Visa USA says.

Helene Curtis Expands Marketing Pact With MSN

Consumer products giant Unilever said its Hair Care business selected Microsoft’s MSN network to serve as lead Web partner in 2001 for Helene Curtis, maker of such hair-care brands as ThermaSilk, Salon Selectives and Finesse.

Unilever cited customized MSN marketing solutions as the key behind the decision to expand its advertising relationship with MSN. Spending details were not disclosed. The two companies have been working together for several years, mostly on marketing Unilever’s products aimed at women.

The Helene Curtis marketing program on MSN includes cross-media sponsorship with MSNBC and NBC’s top-rated morning TV news program, “Today,” as well as interactive sponsorship on the Microsoft WebTV service and premier sponsorship of the Oscar package on the MSN Entertainment channel.

Unilever said its marketing program on MSN, created in part by J. Walter Thompson’s digital@jwt/chicago group, will include content integration, an ad effectiveness research program, cross-media sponsorships, MSN promotions and sampling programs.

Helene Curtis also will supply consumer content and tools on MSN WomenCentral.

Touchpoint Snags $8.2 Million in Series B Funding

Emeryville, Calif.-based personalized marketing company Touchpoint Inc. secured $8.2-million in Series B funding and said Roger Strauch has stepped in as the acting chief executive officer, with Jinee Tao taking on the chairman and chief strategic officer role.

The investment round was led by previous investors Highland Capital Partners and the Roda Group, along with participation from new investors including Crimson Group and Rukuten Inc. of Japan.

The company said it would use the funding to further the development of its software applications and for sales and marketing.

The company markets communications services apps that allow businesses to send personalized printed communications as easily as email.

Touchpoint’s co-founder and current CEO Tao will now serve as chairman and chief strategic officer in order to focus on outbound corporate communications, strategic sales and alliances and product vision. Acting CEO Strauch is an existing board member and chairman of the Roda Group.

Touchpoint provides turnkey solutions that enable companies to create, personalize and send printed communications — such full color, high quality cards and postcards. Touchpoint’s patent-pending technology platform integrates online publishing, digital image management, contact management, on-demand state-of-the-art digital printing and direct mail fulfillment.

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