Keebler Catches IM Marketing Fever

By Ryan Naraine

Looking to latch on to the wild popularity of instant messaging as an always-on tool to reach new customers, the Keebler Company has struck a deal with New York-based ActiveBuddy to run promotions on the SmarterChild IM buddy/bot.

The SmarterChild bot, which dishes real-time news via IM, first started sending hyperlinks to Keebler’s Cheez-It Game Day sweepstakes, a promotional campaign piggybacking on the NFL season.

ActiveBuddy spokesperson Emily Lenzner said the September test run of the promotion registered a 6.5 percent click-through rate from the embedded Web link shuttled to SmarterChild users.

She said the click-thru rate exceeded the Cheez-It Web site’s historical average for email marketing by a rate of over three times. The latest Iconocast statistics show industry click-through rates for brokered email lists is 2.5 percent, she said.

During the September run of the promotion, a total of 120,000 impressions were registered on the SmarterChild bot, which now boasts more than 2 million users split between the three major IM platforms — America Online’s AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Microsoft’s MSN Messenger.

The Cheez-It promotion is activated when a user requests information on the NFL football season, which is powered by SportsTicker.

It is the second major corporate enterprise to jump on the IM bandwagon. ActiveBuddy also has a deal in place to push links from telecommunications firm Sprint on its AgentBaseball bot.

While the Manhattan-based start-up derives the bulk of its revenues from building and licensing its instant messaging technology to the B2B market, the SmarterChild bot may become a different source of revenues on a cost-per-click basis, Lenzner said.

Keebler’s Anndee Soderberg is also sounding like the Instant Messaging convert who sees its potential for marketing.

“Just as consumers are tiring of traditional online advertising, ActiveBuddy shows up with a fresh, welcome way of interacting with customers. And the stellar results from our test suggest the integration of brand with IM is the way to go.”

ActiveBuddy’s CEO Peter Levitan chimed in on the IM love-fest: “Marketers must have proven effectiveness. The Cheez-It program demonstrated that instant messaging can be a more powerful marketing tool than the use of email direct marketing.”

Other ActiveBuddy bots available on IM buddy lists GooglyMinotaur, an agent developed for Capitol Records to promote the band Radiohead; LindsayBuddy, commissioned by Warner Bros. Records to push the career of pop singer, Lindsay Pagano; TheSportingNews, a fantasy football companion agent and AgentBaseball, an IM resource for up-to-the-minute baseball information.

ActiveBuddy is backed by the SoundView Technology Group and Reuters .

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