Hotmail, Juno Beef Up Free Offerings to Entice Marketers

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Free e-mail companies Hotmail Corp. and Juno Online Services, L.P., are busy making moves aimed at keeping the ad dollars flowing in.


Hotmail, Sunnyvale, CA, has launched a lead-generation service called Mail-Me. Under the program, when Hotmail members log on to check their e-mail at www.hotmail.com, a welcome page appears with a half-page banner ad and a "mail-me-more-information" button.


Members who click on the Mail-Me button receive in their e-mail boxes an advertiser-created Web page that can be any type of form, survey or application, or a page with links to the advertiser's site. A Mail-Me page can include all the graphics and links of a regular Web page.


Hotmail advertisers' targeting options include 12 pieces of demographic information the company collects at registration.


Hotmail has 12 million subscribers and is growing by 75,000 people a day, primarily through word of mouth, according to Steve Douty, vice president of sales and marketing.


"Advertisers view the growth as a major benefit because they're getting a lot of new people," said Douty, adding that the Hotmail Web site gets between 6 million and 6.5 million unique visitors each month.


He projected that Hotmail, which was bought by Microsoft in December, will have between 25 million and 30 million members by the end of the year.


Douty said Hotmail has been testing Mail-Me since December with about 20 marketers, including Disney and Investors Business Daily. Douty said marketers can buy Mail-Me spots based on the number of Mail-Me messages delivered to members' e-mail boxes; the number of completed forms, surveys or application; or the number of people who click through Mail-Me ads from their e-mail boxes to the advertiser's site.


He said Mail-Me leads can cost anywhere from $2 or $3 to up to the $60 one unnamed credit-card marketer paid for each completed application.


"Pricing varies depending on a number of things," Douty said, "but we can generally lower the cost of customer acquisition."


Most advertisers receive Mail-Me response data automatically so they can fulfill requests immediately, he said. "The cycle time on this can be a couple of days."


Meanwhile, Juno, New York, has launched a 1-million-plus piece direct mail campaign aimed at helping the company reach a projected 7 million members by year's end.


Juno has 4.1 million members and is growing by 10,000 members a day, said Bob Cherins, executive vice president.


The company's latest membership drive began earlier this month and will run for about a month in regular 100,000-piece drops.


"We are staggering it so we don't inundate our call centers and fulfillment houses," Cherins said.


The campaign's prospects were compiled from about 20 lists of personal computer users with modems, he said. The effort includes a new control package, the second-place package from Juno's last campaign to make sure that the control still wins and two new creative packages.


Cherins declined to project response to the campaign or reveal response to previous campaigns, but he said that the last effort more than doubled projections. One reason for the high response, he said, is that once prospects respond for the free software, Juno diskettes have a pass-along rate of between three and five people.


Launched in April 1996, Juno offers members with modem-equipped, Windows-driven PCs free e-mail accounts in return for permission to send them client-sponsored online advertising (banners at the top of the screen or "pop-ups" appearing during log on) when they use the service.


Unlike Hotmail, Juno members need no prior Internet access to use the company's services. And until recently, Juno offered its members no Internet access beyond e-mail transmission and retrieval. As a result, clicking on an ad resulted in being taken to a self-contained micro-site -- an order form, survey or some other call to action.


In November, at the request of advertisers, Juno began linking sponsors' ads to their sites and giving its members without prior service temporary Internet access limited to the advertisers' sites. Cherins said, however, that 42 percent of Juno's subscribers have Internet access independent of Juno.


Advertisers on Juno's service have three options: run-of-service advertising, advertising aimed at one of 10 broadly defined segments (such as families, business users, seniors and travel) and custom-targeted advertising.


Custom-targeted advertising is available by selecting segments of Juno's database using any combination of demographic and psychographic characteristics the company gathers through a 20-question subscriber survey.


Cherins said Juno has 100 advertisers, including American Airlines, Toyota, Cendant, American Express, The Signature Group and Columbia House. Between 20 percent and 25 percent of Juno's members use the service each day, and about 50 percent use it each month.
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