PointRoll Digs Into Eight-Track Vault for Mailer

New technologies replace existing ones faster than you can say “obsolescence.” Nowhere is this more true than for media, where HDTV, VoIP and iPods are merely this year's Johnny-come-latelies.

Recognizing that businesses want to be on the cutting edge, online advertising firm PointRoll Inc. recently conducted a direct mail campaign contrasting its next-generation dynamic banner ads with what it thinks are two media dinosaurs: static banners and eight-track tapes.

The 5-year-old company was founded to create online ads that let viewers initiate an interaction when they roll their mouse over them. Clients such as CNN.com, Homestore.com and Alloy typically use PointRoll's online banners along with add-on features such as streaming video, dynamic data, data collection and polling.

In a show of support for the Fort Washington, PA, company's positioning, newspaper giant Gannett Co. Inc. acquired PointRoll for $100 million in June. That month, PointRoll initiated a mail campaign to raise awareness of its brand in the marketplace. PointRoll mailed more than 4,000 eight-track tapes of bands such as Foreigner, Boston and Meatloaf to current customers and prospects.

“[We thought] 'let's position the standard banner as obsolete like the eight-track tape,' ” said Mitch Rose, vice president of marketing at PointRoll.

PointRoll, of course, has the next-generation technology that advertisers are supposed to consider for their next online campaign.

While brainstorming, PointRoll's marketing team made a list of obsolete things, but chose the eight-track tape because it “would hit home well with the group that we were going after,” Rose said. It also fit with the company's desire to be seen as fun.

“In today's digital music world, the stark contrast between being able to listen to music digitally and on an eight-track is the same contrast we are trying to raise between a static message and an interactive message,” he said.

The mail piece went to key personnel in online ad agencies, publishers and advertisers. Names of prospects were supplied by PointRoll's sales force.

Though the company traditionally does a significant amount of online advertising, Rose said, “direct mail is important to integrate into our overall marketing mix. No matter what your product or service is, it is really important to tell your story across different mediums.”

Recipients got the eight-tracks in a box along with a card having a pull-away panel on one side. The copy on the front of the card reads: “What do 8-tracks and standard banners have in common?” After pulling away the front panel, the copy inside reads: “They are obsolete. Don't be left behind when planning your next online campaign. Move beyond the standard banner. Use PointRoll.” The mailer included a brochure about the different types of banners PointRoll offers.

The campaign aimed to “drive top-of-mind awareness,” Rose said. Response has been positive. More than 100 recipients e-mailed or called mostly to say that they haven't thought about such-and-such band in a long time. Meatloaf elicited the biggest response, he said.

As a result, PointRoll outfitted its sales force with eight-track players to bring to follow-up meetings.

The campaign has generated more than two dozen sales leads to date.

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