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FunnyMoney.com Enters the Loyalty Points Arena

FunnyMoney.com, the latest entrant into the points arena, is expected to make its debut May 1.

FunnyMoney hopes to make a splash in the online currency world by shooting for an untapped market segment — the 13- to 25-year-old consumer. Many of its competitors, such as Cybergold.com, forbid those under 18 to enroll.

Teen-agers and others can earn this currency for making purchases, reading advertisers' e-mails and sampling products from the Web site’s partners. The points can then be redeemed at any of the 3.2 million online merchants that accept MasterCard for gift certificates powered by ecount.com. Also, consumers will be able to cash out, having FunnyMoney.com send them a check for the money they earned using the currency. Plans also are underway to have small, offline businesses accept FunnyMoney in their stores. One thousand units of FunnyMoney equals $1.

This effort is just the latest of many trying to reach the teen market, said Michael Wood, vice president of Teen Research Unlimited Northbrook, IL. “It seems like there are a lot of companies out there looking for a hook.”

This one is not a sure bet because, historically, teens do not respond well to loyalty programs. “Consumer promotions that depend on teens' keeping up with points or game pieces or proofs of purchase haven’t gone over that well,” said Wood. “It’s a step teens don’t want to take. They are much more interested in immediate gratification.”

However, Hart Cunningham, CEO FunnyMoney.com, Sherman Oaks, CA, contends that teens — who tend to be Internet savvy — are the perfect match for such a program. “Teens spend more time surfing the Net than watching TV. It triples the amount of time adults spend online if you remove the time they spend surfing at work.”

One of the advantages this program brings to its partners is the ability to promote product sampling among teens, said Cunningham. Consumers who try Backup.com’s free disk drive space for 30 days, for example, receive 8,500 FunnyMoney points.

The site also offers the ability to earn 25 FunnyMoney points for every dollar spent at its hopping section.

The site will be generating permission-based e-mail marketing lists; however, it is being careful with its tech-educated user base. “All of the boxes [reflecting the users interests] are already checked on our competitors’ sites,” said Cunningham. “On ours, you have to take the initiative to click the boxes. The teen market is more tech savvy. We don’t want to annoy them.”

To promote the site, it has recruited college campus representatives who are distributing thousands of glossy 3-by-5 cards promoting the site as well as free T-shirts. It has 75 campus reps in the United States and 25 abroad.

It also is heavily relying on an affiliate program that pays sites 6 cents per click-through. It will launch with more than 400 affiliate sites. According to Cunningham’s projections, the site will sign on 100 to 150 affiliate members a day. He anticipates FunnyMoney.com will have 2.8 million registered users by October.

The site has also recruited high school students in the Canejo Valley, CA, area to distribute 250,000 full-color fliers promoting the site. Whoever signs up the most new users will receive $10,000.

Consumers under the age of 13 need parental consent to join the program.

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