First USA Takes Prospecting Online

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First USA's new multi-year partnership with broadcast.com gives the credit card issuer the opportunity to market co-branded cards to prospects while they are interacting with the brand and expands its ambitious online marketing push.


A prospect viewing a Webcast of his favorite college football team, the University of Tennessee for instance, can receive an offer for a Tennessee-branded card before the broadcast of the game. This is done through audio and video gateway ads that play for 30 seconds before a broadcast is loaded.


As the exclusive credit card issuer on broadcast.com, Dallas, general First USA cards also will be promoted with banner ads, links and a button that appears in the same section of every page on the site.


"Direct mail doesn't appeal to a lot people," said First USA spokesman Jeff Unkle. "The Web as an advertising and marketing channel is based on the same segmentation strategy. We are always looking to identify ways that make sense to approach people that would give us a better shot at an application."


Broadcast.com will integrate First USA audio and video gateway ads into what it deems relevant content. This includes specific content for which First USA, Wilmington, DE, has a co-branded card or a general interest, such as jazz. Unkle said it will first use existing branding relationships but will consider developing new cards if it identifies broadcast opportunities that make sense. The partners have exchanged data on programming channels and affinity card relationships to pinpoint the best opportunities for targeting.


Simultaneous to the running of gateway ads, a browser window will open to an offer page on the First USA Web site. Interested prospects can apply for a card or continue to surf through the site while listening to their broadcast. Broadcast.com also is testing the insertion of gateway ads during programming.


"It's an evolving program where we keep getting feedback and adjust the advertising message," said Jeff Swan, broadcast.com director of e-commerce. "That's why this is a long-term relationship."


Gateway ads are a main feature of broadcast.com and have been used since the site's inception in 1995. Swan said advertisers like such ads because they can control how many people see their sites and don't have to rely on clicking on a banner. In addition, he said these ads are one of the few formats that utilize the rich media capabilities of the Web.


The broadcast.com venture is one of several online partnerships that First USA has established to reach prospects with card products that fit their interests. The issuer also offers co-branded cards for Yahoo, America Online and Excite through banner ads and other online promotions. For search engine Excite, the offer becomes more customized as a user refines a search.


"We view the Internet as a channel to reach segments not receptive to other forms," Unkle said.


The Yahoo card has a rewards structure that awards users points that can be redeemed for purchases with participating online merchants including CDNow, Amazon.com and The Sharper Image. It is aimed at prospects who like the Internet and are comfortable with e-commerce.


Issuing co-branded cards with Internet companies is part of an online marketing push by First USA that has attracted nearly 7 million new credit card accounts in two years and made it the undisputed leader in the card industry, according to a study by Brittain Associates, Atlanta. Those figures include accounts generated online by Banc One and First Chicago, which are all now part of Bank One Corp., Columbus, OH.


MBNA, Wilmington, DE, was a distant second with just one-third the number of accounts attracted on the Web. The study also tracked the online marketing efforts of issuers Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, First Premier Bank, First Bank and Heritage Bank of Commerce.


The study also found that of the 15 million consumers who went to the Web to search for a credit card, 75 percent applied for one online.


"Credit cards are the success story right now in terms of Internet marketing," said Bruce Brittain, president of Brittain Associates. "With the other financial services, [the Internet] is a great place to kick tires and compare prices -- but when it comes time to buy, consumers don't necessarily do it there."
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