NextCard Joins Skygo for Wireless Marketing Tests

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Online credit card marketer NextCard is taking part in a wireless advertising trial managed by wireless interactive advertising start-up Skygo. The campaign is expected to run from September to January and will be tested on 1,000 consumers in Boulder, CO.


"We are working with Skygo on this test campaign to help us learn what types of ads will be successful in this brand-new wireless market," said Ryuji Morishita, business development manager at NextCard, San Francisco. NextCard will recruit its consumers in the Boulder area via e-mail to participate in the trial campaigns, he said. Participants will receive a free wireless telephone. The phone manufacturer has not yet been selected. Consumers will be asked to visit the Skygo Web site, www.skygo.com, where they can enter their mobile phone numbers, names, NextCard credit card numbers, addresses, interests and request specific advertisements from a list posted by Skygo.


The campaign will consist of four components: sales alerts; interactive branding messages; mobile commerce; and show-me coupons. The sales alerts will be short-message servicing alerts telling consumers about sales at local retailers. The alerts will contain wireless Web addresses that link the user to a self-contained advertisement explaining the featured sale and offering a direct phone link to the retailer's customer service center. NextCard members will be offered discounts if they use their NextCard credit card when making any purchases. Members of NextCard's MyPoints program, an integrated marketing e-solution service, will earn points toward a sweepstakes for a free trip to Hawaii when they purchase items using their NextCard credit card.


"The sales alerts are intended to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar establishments through mobile phone advertising," Morishita said.


"One example of an interactive branding campaign is IBM's 2000 Olympic Games sponsorship advertisement. IBM will sponsor trivia games and Olympic results alerts on the wireless phones as a means to establish a branding message with the wireless users," said Daren Tsui, CEO and co-founder of Skygo, San Mateo, CA.


The mobile commerce program, which Morishita claims is the first of its kind, will enable trial participants to make purchases at participating wireless-based e-tailers via their mobile devices. Consumers who make any purchases with their NextCard credit card will be offered discounts, incentives or points on the MyPoints program. All participants in the trial will be provided with a Skygo personal identification number, which they are required to enter when making an m-commerce purchase. Once a PIN is entered, all Skygo registration information is sent to the advertiser to eliminate the need to re-enter billing information. The m-commerce offers will be pushed to users of mobile phones in the form of interactive SMS alerts based on their interests. Morishita could not disclose which e-tailers plan to participate in the trial.


The show-me coupons will consist of interactive SMS ads, which will provide links to self-contained coupons having a barcode redeemable at the participating retailer. As in the other campaigns, consumers who use their NextCard credit card to purchase posted items will be offered incentives, discounts or MyPoints sweepstakes points. Morishita would not disclose the names of retailers that are expected to participate in the show-me coupons trial.


"These trial campaigns will assist us in learning how to market NextCard wireless purchase programs to our customers and to utilize the wireless channel as a customer acquisition arena," Morishita said.


Skygo will track the campaign and publish results in the first quarter of 2001.


"We are taking the holistic approach with this campaign. We want to try everything and see what performs best," Tsui said.


Tsui would not disclose the fees for ad space in the trials. This campaign represents Skygo's first step into the wireless space, he said, adding that since the company's September 1999 launch, the firm has focused primarily on research and development. Skygo ultimately plans to create a network of wireless Web sites and portals for mobile advertising, Tsui said, declining to specify marketing goals.


Skygo was founded by Tsui, former vice president of data integration at AltaVista and Ed Ho, former vice president of product development at X.com, Palo Alto, CA, an Internet-based person-to-person payment company.

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