E-Stamp, Stamps.com Launch Dueling Media Campaigns

Online postage vendor E-Stamp Corp., San Mateo, CA, began targeting direct marketers this week with the launch of a multimillion-dollar branding and direct mail campaign promoting its E-Stamp Internet postage product. This follows on the heels of a similar campaign by main rival Stamps.com, Santa Monica, CA.

The companies are fighting over SOHO businesses and consumers who may want to buy stamps online.

E-Stamp aired 30-second television spots Oct. 25 on prime-time network news shows and cable TV and expects to continue running the ads through the first quarter of next year. The ads, which come with the tag line “Postage when you need it,” highlight the time-saving benefits of the service. The ads “Co-Worker” and “Wedding Picture” focus on a businessman and husband respectively who lose years and a wife because they were waiting too long to buy postage. The advertising program was created by Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, CA, E-Stamp’s main brand advertising agency.

E-Stamp will launch a direct mail campaign to coincide with its television campaign and plans to drop 1 million direct mail pieces this quarter to small businesses all around the country. The campaign was created by Pickholz Tweedy + Company, New York. E-Stamp also is using an agency called Lot21 Interactive, San Francisco, to create a series of interactive campaigns, including banner ads and e-mail marketing programs, and is leveraging its partnerships with Microsoft Office, America Online, Yahoo and [email protected] for online marketing programs as well.

While E-Stamp would not offer any specific costs of the campaign, Ellen Perelman, senior director of marketing for the company, said it was in line with E-Stamp’s commitment to spend 65 percent of its IPO earnings on marketing, brand recognition and sales. E-Stamp’s IPO took place Oct. 8, and the company raised $110 million dollars.

Perelman said E-Stamp’s hardware and software system currently has more than 10,000 customers, and expects soon to increase that figure to 100,000.

Meanwhile, Stamps.com’s television campaign features comedian Bob Newhart as the company’s spokesman. The spots are currently airing in nine markets that have a high percentage of small businesses and Internet users, including San Francisco, Boston and Atlanta, and the spots will roll out nationally at the end of the year.

In the campaign, created by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, OR, Newhart portrays fictional small businessman Frank Mettman Jr., who has taken over his father’s company, the Mettman Manufacturing Co. The company is known for ill-conceived products, and Frank Jr. signs up for Stamps.com’s service to help get all his recall notices, apology letters and get-well cards out to his customers.

“This campaign is designed to connect directly with our primary small-business target market and convey that Stamps.com understands the challenges of running a small business, particularly as it relates to administrative tasks, such as postage,” said Chris Hylen, senior vice president of marketing for Stamps.com.

The campaign includes print ads and radio ads that support the local market theory. Stamps.com also will launch a direct mail campaign this quarter and is using Direct Partners, Santa Monica, CA, as its direct marketing agency of record . Stamps.com also has partnership agreements with Quicken.com, Microsoft and America Online and will run banner ads on these companies’ Web sites. Stamps.com also is experimenting with opt-in e-mail marketing.

Stamps.com and America Online, Dulles, VA, this week also announced a three-year, $56 million alliance that will make it the exclusive provider of Internet postage across AOL’s brands. The deal also calls for AOL to make a multimillion-dollar investment in Stamps.com, but the exact figure was not disclosed.

Stamps.com, which raised over $60 million when it went public in June, estimates that it will spend about 60 percent of that amount on expanding its marketing and distribution partnerships over time.

Stamps.com, which allows consumers to print postage online, is scheduled to launch its program this month and already has more than 100,000 people preregistered for its service.

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