Avenue A Bolsters E-Mail Services Through Deals

Avenue A Inc. has partnered with three major e-mail marketing firms in a move that enables the Seattle-based Internet media buyer to add e-mail prospecting and results analysis to its client services.

The deals with Mail.com, New York; NetCreations, New York; and yesmail.com, Vernon Hills, IL, give Avenue A's customers access to lists managed by three vocal proponents of opt-in e-mail marketing. While Avenue A, as a prominent media planner and buyer, was always free to rent or buy these list firms' services, it had sought to develop a more official arrangement with the e-mailing companies in recent months.

Jeremy Hyra, director of strategic development for Avenue A's precision e-mail services, said that by entering into partnerships with Mail.com, NetCreations and yesmail rather than just contracting their services, Avenue A gained two key benefits: integrated reporting and priority campaign planning and handling.

In the new setup, the Mail.com, NetCreations and yesmail delivery reports are fed directly to Avenue A, who then presents the full campaign results to its clients. Hyra described this change as critical to its ability to serve as a single strategic vendor to time-pressed advertisers and marketers.

“Previously [the e-mail firm] would create the report and our client would go to them to find out how many deliveries and bounces there were. Then, the client had to go to us to correlate what happened on our side and work out the percentage of conversions,” he explained. “We're more of a one-stop shop now.”

Of equal importance to Avenue A was achieving the level of service and attention that it believed its size warranted. These deals required the e-mail firms to agree to grant Avenue A a kind of preferred status among other Internet media buyers.

“We now have a single point of contact over there that knows there are big volumes coming from Avenue A on behalf of different advertisers, and when this person gets a call from us, there's a commitment and service level agreement as to how fast they're going to turn around a campaign,” Hyra said. Avenue A also gains the right to advance notice when the e-mailers are heading into busy seasons, such as around holidays or the Super Bowl.

“They're going to say to us 'We're locking down our slots for Christmas, and we're going to give Avenue A first crack at it,'” he explained. “Then we'll go to our clients and see who wants to lock down spaces.”

Avenue A did not disclose what the financial terms of these deals were, nor did its three partners. One of them, however, did explain the benefits of the arrangement from its perspective.

“We're going to be included on every request for proposal so we get first shot at filling Avenue A's orders for opt-in e-mail lists,” said Michael Mayor, senior sales executive at NetCreations. “We've been working with Avenue A for about four months. We've also been working with iballs, an affiliate of Avenue A, for six months. This formalizes the relationship that we've had with them for quite some time.”

Mayor said he was not at all concerned about delivering its e-mailing campaign results directly to Avenue A instead of to the clients. “This is opening us up to Avenue A's client base, not cutting back on any existing client relationships that we have,” he noted.

Avenue A has, in fact, several existing relationships with e-mail list firms, but it refers to those as collaborations rather than partnerships. The difference, however, is more than semantics.

“Collaborators are vendors, not strategic partners, and don't get the same benefits as such,” said Hyra. “Preferred partners get in on every single buy in the first stage; whereas, the other list providers might get on every once in a while.” In addition to the volume Avenue A's client base will provide, the e-mail list partners also get the chance to strut their stuff on a major stage.

“Here's an opportunity to show the world that your lists work on a CPM basis,” he offered.

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