ESPN.com Trades Issues for Contact Info

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ESPN.com is offering three free issues of ESPN The Magazine as an incentive to collect e-mail and home addresses of sports enthusiasts.


The incentive is part of a rich media banner ad campaign that employs BlueStreak's new "transactional tunneling" solution.


Jennifer Keene, manager of new business at ESPN The Magazine, New York, said the goal is to convince Web-savvy sports enthusiasts to subscribe to ESPN The Magazine.


The interactive banner prompts users to accept the offer immediately, and BlueStreak's transactional tunneling solution lets users fill out a subscription form while remaining on the Web page the ad was served on.


John Croy, chief technology officer at BlueStreak, Newport, RI, had high click-through and conversion expectations for the campaign because the offer is dropped in consumers' laps at the most impressionable time.


"The best kind of campaign for advertisers is one that allows interaction at the point of contact," Croy said.


Online advertising agency Loungelizard.com, Great River, NY, created the ad.


It depicts a pitcher hurling a baseball toward the user and induces clicks by inviting users to "hit" the ball. When users scroll over the ad, their cursors are transformed into red cross hairs. Once users click on the baseball, the ad opens up in a new window about one-quarter the size of the computer screen and delivers the offer to the Web site the ad was served on.


ESPN.com would not discuss how much was invested in the point-of-contact conversion experiment. "This effort is more like a test than a full-fledged campaign. "We're just testing, we're still working out the kinks," Keene said.


The campaign has been going on for about two weeks, and Keene said she had not yet seen enough data to determine its success.


"The data is inconclusive at this point. There isn't enough information to determine whether or not it's effective," she said.


BlueStreak is tracking the campaign.


Croy was prohibited by ESPN.com from discussing specific campaign numbers, but he said conversion rates were higher than what would have been expected from a GIF banner campaign. BlueStreak's clients have seen conversion rates as high as 50 percent from rich media campaigns vs. 0.5 percent from typical banner ad campaigns, company officials said.


Stefan Tornquist, director of marketing and communications at BlueStreak, said click-through and conversion rates are increased because of the offer's convenience to users.


"By not requiring users to leave [the site they are visiting], we see click-on and conversion rates that are far beyond industry standard. It's psychological, strictly a matter of convenience," he said.


The interactive nature of the rich media campaign is appealing to consumers and advertisers, but many Web sites avoid the medium.


Large, bandwidth-guzzling rich media often create problems because Web sites are not equipped to handle the cumbersome files. Few Web sites can deliver rich media as efficiently as they serve GIF banner ads. Long download times and bandwidth concerns have restricted advertisers from running rich media campaigns on highly trafficked Web sites.


But BlueStreak officials insist its rich media banners are well-received and easy to serve.


In May, the company said its rich media banners were being accepted at 15 of the Internet's top-20 networks and Web sites, including Lycos, Excite, AltaVista, 24/7 Media, About.com, DoubleClick, Go Network, GoTo.com, Microsoft Network and Yahoo.
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