LowerMyBills Looks to Snare NextCard Business

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LowerMyBills.com, a Web portal that lets consumers conduct side-by-side comparisons of products and services from multiple vendors in the telecommunications, financial services and energy industries, plans to start a multimillion-dollar online ad campaign this month to help it capture some of the financial services business that used to go to online credit card issuer NextCard.

NextCard, which was shut down and is being sold by federal regulators, was one of the Internet's largest advertisers, making extensive use of pop-up and pop-under ads.

LowerMyBills.com aims to grab much of NextCard's market with similar tactics, CEO Matthew Coffin said. The company is employing pop-under ads, e-mail, text links and even banners in its new campaign, which is scheduled to run throughout the year. Its inhouse list numbers about 400,000 names, he said.

"We're filling the gap left by NextCard," Coffin said. "Their lack of continuation of their business has left a pretty big gap in the financial services market."

LowerMyBills plans to spend about $500,000 a month on advertising and promotion throughout the year, he said. The company is testing its creative and plans to roll out its campaign within a few weeks.

Coffin said the majority of the advertising will consist of e-mail and pop-under ads. LowerMyBills plans to evaluate the campaign monthly and change it based on results.

"Our discipline is in testing," he said. "Banners are not a significant source of results. Our two big ad units are pop-unders and e-mail."

LowerMyBills focuses on a few industries and provides comparison services for long-distance phone service, credit cards, insurance, loans, Internet service, utilities, wireless service and debt relief services. Users provide information on the site about the services they are interested in, and LowerMyBills provides deals from among its 13 affiliate companies. Affiliate partners include AT&T, America Online and InsWeb.com.

"In these difficult economic times, we'd like to be known as a metrics-driven, transaction-focused business that is fueling the online advertising economy through strategic relationships with publishers," Coffin said.

The company plans to increase its advertising presence on major Web portals, he said, something it has avoided doing in the past. Coffin would not identify which portals. The only sites the company does not advertise on are music and entertainment Web sites. Its services are aimed at users 25 and older, he said, and that demographic does not frequent music sites.

Coffin also said that he is not bothered by the negative perception pop-up and pop-under ads have in the Internet community. Those types of ads have proven successful for LowerMyBills in the past, he said.

"We diligently track complaints and source them back to the publisher," he said. "If the problem gets out of line, we'll respond."

If consumers e-mail the company to complain about pop-ups, he said, LowerMyBills will reply to each one. Generally, he said, complaints fall into two categories: user ignorance or a lack of frequency caps. Most complaints come from new Internet users who see additional browser windows open on their desktop and think they are pop-ups. Also, some unscrupulous advertisers will not cap the frequency of their ads, so users will see the same one multiple times.

"There's usually a problem with frequency caps or some sort of ad that they think is a pop-under, but it really isn't," he said. "We benchmark complaints to a particular publisher."

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