*FreeRide Markets in the Fast Lane

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FreeRide.com begins testing its first major marketing campaign in New York and San Francisco today as it prepares to make a move at competitors such as MyPoints, Beenz and Netcentives' marketshare.


The campaign's tagline "FreeRide: The Fast Lane to Free Stuff" will be supported offline through radio, print, outdoor ads and guerilla marketing tactics, all of which will wrap up in March.


FreeRide rewards its members with award points for making purchases and searching sponsor sites. The points are redeemable for more than 1,600 sponsor offers from 200 suppliers, including CDNow, Espirit and Blockbuster.


FreeRide is well behind category leader MyPoints.com, according to Media Metrix, New York. MyPoints had 4.8 million unique visitors in November, landing it in sixth place in the shopping category. FreeRide had 342,000 unique visitors and was 197th.


This should change, according to Lisa Dowdy, vice president of marketing and consumer services for FreeRide, New York. "We're trying to increase member acquisitions and member participation," she said. "We have 500,000 members just through word of mouth. We have to really communicate our advantages to our consumers. Right now that's our biggest challenge, making consumers aware of the site."


Radio spots will air on popular stations in New York and San Francisco starting today. A flatbed truck boasting the company's logo will cruise the Manhattan streets for the next two weeks as well.


Also launching today is


the "FreeRide to Aruba" sweepstakes, which runs through Feb. 4, and the company has dubbed "FreeRide Friday." Participants can enter the contest by registering to become a member, referring a friend to the site and finding hidden icons throughout the site.


To create a buzz in the workplace, 200 winners in New York will receive gift baskets in their offices announcing that they've won on Feb. 4. Seventy-five winners will receive tickets for two to Aruba. The remainder will be invited to a party that evening, in addition to winning 15,000 FreeRide points (which is equivalent to $150). Ten non-New Yorkers will also win the trip.


To further celebrate "FreeRide Friday," a trolley will offer free rides to pedestrians on Wall Street and on Madison Avenue. Riders will receive free hot chocolate and $10 worth of FreeRide points.


The site will advertise in a number of New York papers, including Newsday, The New York Times and the New York Post beginning Jan. 24. An ad will also run in Time Out New York promoting the contest. The site will also test newspaper ads in the San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner, San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times on the same day.


New York commuters will be exposed to FreeRide advertising on the subways beginning the first week of February.


Online, FreeRide is looking to incorporate banner ads in February and is currently considering an e-mail marketing effort. A national public relations campaign is also in the works.


This loyalty points provider will crunch the results of these test programs and begin a major campaign using the successful components of its test run in 10 markets in April: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Washington, Atlanta, Houston and Seattle.


The site has only advertised by running banner ads on partner sites since its inception in 1996. FreeRide waited this long to launch a campaign because it wanted to develop its site, which saw 80 percent of its membership reward points redeemed. Budgets also had something to do with it. However, a second round of financing - $30 million in December from Goldman Sachs, Fleet and Hambercht and Quist - fueled its marketing coffers.


Mezzina/Brown, Inc. New York, is the site's agency of record.
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