*E-Greetings Adds 1.4 Million to Database, Channels Ads

Salutation-sending Internet users surfed en masse to the electronic greeting cards site operated by E-greetings Network at the end of 1998, giving the San Francisco firm a 1.4 million-name boost to its registered database in the last five weeks of the year.

The membership boon brings to 1.8 million the number of people registered at E-greetings, which began giving its illustrated, electronic cards away for free on Nov. 21 as part of co-founder and president Tony Levitan's vision of using enhanced e-mail to make the firm a hub of electronic commerce. The firm currently adds between 20,000 and 30,000 names per day to its database through its www.egreetings.com site.

Like super-popular e-card site www.bluemountain.com before it, E-greetings lets netizens send virtual greeting cards to friends and family as e-mail attachments. The difference between the two firms is that E-greetings is out to make money. As part of its corporate sponsorship model, the company gathers visitors' names, e-mail addresses, genders, ZIP codes, countries of habitation and birth dates.

The company learns about visitors' emotional states by monitoring what kind of a card they send — for example, whether they're for a birthday or a funeral — and combines that information with demographic data to precisely channel advertisements. Ads are shown after people send their cards and are linked to confirmation e-mails the company transmits to card senders. Hypothetically, a woman sending a birth announcement could be targeted by an ad for baby clothes, while a man sending the same card might see an ad for cigars.

“When people are sending E-greetings, psychographically they're telling us a lot about themselves,” said Levitan, who refers to the confluence of a card-sender's emotional state and demographic particulars as the “flashpoint” for sending targeted product pitches.

The advertisements so far have seen click-through rates reaching into the midteens, Levitan said. E-greetings bills its clients varyingly, sometimes linking charges to click-through rates and other times building relationships on a revenue-sharing basis.

The flashpoint strategy appeals to a company like Godiva Chocolatier Inc., whose sales tend to come from customers making impulse purchases. The confectionery giant will begin running a Valentine's Day promotion through E-greetings in early February.

“At the same time that they [customers] are thinking about the holiday, now we can hit them and say, 'Hey, this is the perfect gift for you,' ” said Adam Rockmore, Godiva's director of global marketing and interactive in Brussels. “With something like E-greetings, we're getting more focused toward that. It's impulse-plus relevancy. It makes a lot of sense.”

E-greetings has tested marketing toward card recipients, and Levitan noted that for every five people who get e-cards, one ends up becoming a sender shortly afterward.

He projects E-greetings surpassing Blue Mountain Arts' visitor volume by year-end, which would put two digital greeting sites among the top 15 most frequently visited Web sites. Levitan, who cut his direct marketing teeth in the Taipei and Tokyo offices of Leo Burnett, believes such volume will move enhanced e-mail closer toward electronic marketing's center stage.

As part of a Valentine's Day marketing push, E-greetings in mid-January launched a $10 million advertising campaign through ad shop Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito CA.

E-greeting's customer is younger than the typical greeting card buyer. Print ads will run through the first six months of the year in USA Today, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Fitness, Wired, Spin, GQ and POV, among others, as well as independent alternative newspapers in the 10 leading Internet markets. Outdoor advertising is scheduled to begin in the Washington, DC, and San Francisco metro areas in February.

The print campaign visually contrasts plain, text-only e-mails with bright and colorful E-greetings, attempting to show how regular text pales in comparison with electronic cards' strong impact and clarity.

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