Mr. Wunderman Goes to the Web If any doubts lingered about the legitimacy of the Internet as a direct marketing vehicle, they now have been washed away for good. Mr. Wunderman has come to the Web.
Intellipost Corp., the San Francisco-based provider of the MyPoints and BonusMail Internet marketing programs, announced last month that Lester Wunderman had joined its board of directors. Wunderman is credited with coining the term direct response marketing and is the founder of the nation’s largest direct agecy, Wunderman Cato Johnson. He is renowned as the architect of the American Express card and the Columbia Record Club, and is the author of Frontiers in Direct Marketing and the just-released Being Direct.
Wunderman, who is also involved in a startup e-commerce venture, says he was drawn to the Web because of its tremendous upside potential in direct marketing.
“My focus all along has been to try to get people to talk to each other, to get the consumer to talk to a supplier and vice versa. Clearly, the Web is bringing this to a new level,” Wunderman said in a telephone press conference following the Intellipost announcement.
“The problem with the other media is people have not accepted the idea of reading [a direct mail piece] or of being called on the telephone. Intellipost has the advantage of having people as members who have agreed to read.”
Indeed, Wunderman allowed that the Internet was more than a mere medium.
“I think the Web is a marketplace,” he said. “It’s a place where people can meet, it’s a place where people can transact . . . it’s an experience that is unmatched because you are in contact, but you really haven’t lost your privacy, despite what people say.”
According to Intellipost, a total of some two million consumers are registered in its BonusMail direct marketing program and its MyPoints loyalty rewards program. Its clients include GTE, NextCard Internet Visa, and Prodigy Services Corporation. Rewards offered to members range from frequent flyer miles to merchandise from online retailers including Barnes & Noble, Omaha Steaks, and Macy’s.
Intellipost also announced the appointment of new board members Larry Phillips, managing director of Primedia Ventures, and Tom Newkirk, chairman of direct technology and marketing solutions at Experian. Intellipost acquired MyPoints from Experian last year.
Serious Reservations Las Vegas-based Travelscape.com, an online discount hotel provider, has reached an exclusive agreement with Santa Clara, CA-based Yahoo to provide travel services on the latter’s Lodging area, says Travelscape vp-business development and marketing Steve Sarner.
The company is also poised to ink a major network deal with online advertising supplier DoubleClick that will make the service the featured travel provider for the majority of DoubleClick sites, Sarner says. New York City-based DoubleClick has an extensive stable of Web sites that will provide one-click transfers to Travelscape offers and special deals.
Travelscape has signed a letter of intent with Lorland.com, one of the biggest travel destination sites on the Web. Travelscape is already the “booking engine” for Lasvegas.com, which produces “$25,000 to $50,000 a day in revenue,” says Sarner. Lorland.com would utilize that booking system under terms of the deal, he says.
Elsewhere, Travelscape just announced a “No Risk Reservations Guarantee” under which it promises to refund the difference if customers don’t receive the lowest rates at hundreds of Travelscape.com preferred hotels, says Sarner. In addition, travelers gain greater flexibility by being able to change or cancel reservations up to 72 hours prior to arrival without incurring charges, he says.
That’s the Ticket In a bid to strengthen its entertainment services, America Online said it will acquire New York City-based MovieFone, Inc.,a Web film listing and ticketing service, in an all-stock transaction worth $388 million. MovieFone, which serves more than 100 million moviegoers annually, will help position AOL in the rapidly growing market for online entertainment. Special promotions “are likely” in the future to publicize the acquisition, says an AOL spokesperson.
AOL will use its online expertise to improve MovieFone’s Web site, which will be rebranded AOL MovieFone. The site will continue to provide moviegoers with a complete, free directory of movies, showtimes, and theater locations, while expanding its ability to facilitate ticket purchases on the Web and by telephone.
“MovieFone will add an exciting new area of local e-commerce to AOL and our other brands,” says Bob Pittman, ceo of Dulles, VA-based AOL. AOL is uniquely positioned to build MovieFone because of its Digital City site, “the No. 1 local content network on the Web,” he says.
MovieFone covers more than 17,000 movie screens in 42 cities around the country, representing more than 70 percent of the national movie audience. In addition, the service has advertising relationships with all of the major movie studios, as well as exclusive ticketing and on-screen ad agreements with leading theater chains.
MovieFone’s board of directors is voting in favor of the acquisition, and the Jarecki family and its affiliates, who control more than 90 percent of the company’s voting interest, have given their blessing.