Internet-like Ad Targeting Comes to the Telephone

BroadPoint Communications and Duquesne Enterprises, an affiliate of Duquesne Light Co., launched a free, ad-backed long distance telephone service called FreeWay that allows subscribers to call anywhere in the U.S.

The company said the concept brings Internet ad targeting capabilities to telecommunications. Signup is via the Web, and the service has “no charges, no bills and no limits.”

Landover, MD-based BroadPoint calls the concept “Sponsored Communications,” extending the format of broadcast TV and radio to telecommunications. FreeWay will initially be available to a limited number of subscribers in Pittsburgh, PA.

To make a free call using FreeWay, subscribers dial a special toll-free 800 number, then enter their assigned PIN and the number they want to call. Callers then earn free calling time in exchange for listening to brief five to 15 second commercial messages selected to be as interesting and relevant as possible for each subscriber.

Residents of Pittsburgh can subscribe to FreeWay by accessing BroadPoint’s Web site and completing a questionnaire, including information on demographics, lifestyles, hobbies, and special interests. The profile information will be held in confidence and will not be used to send unwanted solicitations, the company said.

“The introduction of FreeWay represents a pivotal moment in the history of telecommunications,” said Perry Kamel, BroadPoint’s president and CEO. “As FreeWay cuts the cost of basic phone services and expands into more sophisticated telecom services like wireless, screen and even video telephony, it will empower everyone to enjoy the benefits of the communications revolution.”

“FreeWay offers a solution to advertisers who are aggressively seeking more effective and efficient ways to deliver their message,” said Lisa Baker, vice president of media marketing and sales. “Advertisers can reach exactly the consumers they want, allowing them to aim broadly, or with laser precision, paying only for messages that are verifiably delivered according to their instructions.”

After launching the service in Pittsburgh, BroadPoint plans to expand the service aggressively. “We intend to offer the service nationally as soon as possible, and have already established the foundations for joint ventures in over 10 international markets,” said Kamel.

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