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Encirq to Put Ads on Online Billing Statements

Consumers will have the option to receive targeted advertising in their online billing statements when Encirq Corp. goes live later this month.

The marketer will partner with retailers and banks initially to place ads next to entries in credit card billing statements accessed online. Consumers will be asked to opt in to receive the ads from retailers when they visit their bank’s Web site to check their statements.

“We’ve turned the statement into a portal and a medium by which marketers, advertisers and merchants can communicate with their customers,” said Jay Dean, vice president of marketing at Encirq, San Francisco. “It’s also creating a data engine so that I can drive all marketing communications to the consumer.”

Encirq will download an applet into the Web browser of bank customers who agree to opt in. This option is mentioned on a separate page on the bank’s Web site. Once the applet is downloaded, Encirq’s technology collects the consumer’s transactional information to create a profile. The profile is built, managed and analyzed on the consumer’s computer.

“The profile sitting on your computer evaluates all of the targeting criteria and then it pulls in the most relevant messages for you,” Dean said. “So we don’t actually know which individual message the consumer has received. Our profiling engine is making those decisions on your behalf.”

If a consumer’s electronic bank statement shows a payment due to a marketer signed up with Encirq, for example, the customer could be presented with a message promoting the marketer’s service. The ad could be a banner or a text message. If the marketer participates in Encirq’s Links and Logo program, it also could sport a link to its Web site. The link will appear to the left of the billing entry.

Encirq will collect a number of messages from the marketer that it will host on its own servers. Each message will have conditional targeting criteria attached to it.

“We’re starting with credit card statements because it’s the richest source of transactional information about the consumer,” Dean said. “We’re going individually to the credit card issuers and also to credit card processors who provide online banking services to a large number of banks.”

Banks and institutions who have partnered with Encirq in this first phase include First National Bank of Omaha; DotsConnect.com, owned by Total Systems Services, the nation’s No. 2 credit card processor; and Bank of Hawaii.

As for retailers, Encirq’s direct sales force team has nabbed clients including Hawaiian Airlines, Cheap Tickets and Starwood and Sheraton hotels in Hawaii.

Encirq will initially offer the Links and Logo program free to retailers and marketers. But it intends to charge a negotiated fee at a later date based on the complexity of the targeting criteria. Right now, it will charge for targeted messages that are either banner ads or only text.

“Our revenue model in the near term is selling space on these statements,” Dean said. “That’s our revenue stream, and then we, in turn, share that with the credit card-issuing banks.”

Encirq will sell space not only to the retailer or marketer next to its billing entry but also to advertisers who prefer banners at the bottom of the page. These advertisers may not have a prior relationship with the billed consumer. Thus, it also adds a customer acquisition element to the exercise.

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