L90, an interactive marketing and technology company, is offering one more solution to its clients: the ability to send promotions through instant messages.
The company is partnering with Aimster, a service that piggybacks on the messengers of America Online, ICQ, MSN, Napster and Yahoo! and allows users to chat and swap files. Marketers will have access only to users of AIM, AOL's client, and Napster, however.
Aimster boasts 2.5 million users only 14 weeks after launching its beta test. L90 Chief Executive and President John Bohan said Aimster's rapid growth "gives it the potential to be one of the top direct marketing, revenue-generating vehicles on the Web." Ads will begin running on Aimster later this week.
Promotions are served only to users who "opt-in" to receive them. Aimster CEO Johnny Deep says users will be asked whether they wish to accept a message from the advertiser; those who block the message will not see the promotion.
L90 will target ads based on patterns in specific files that "buddies" share or download, like a genre of music.
With banner ads garnering .3 percent to .4 percent clickthrough rates, many advertisers are looking for a more effective way to reach online consumers. Many instant messengers feature small ads but for the most part the quick - and personal - nature of IM hasn't lent itself to advertising.
Unlike most instant messaging clients that only enable text and small icons, Aimster lets users open a Web browser that can display graphics and video clips through a media player.
Aimster has participated in at least one IM promotion by itself. EMI Group's Capitol Records used the service to notify users about a new album from the band Radiohead for two days in September. Deep says 37,000 AOL users signed up for Radiohead's fan club during the promotion.
There have been other similar promotions. Since late January, marketers promoting singer Aimee Mann have sent instant messages through Napster to users who had a number of the singer's tunes on their hard drives. Mann's manager, Michael Hausman, says the note promoting Mann's Web site at www.aimeemann.com has increased traffic to the site and garnered 2,500 new addresses for Mann's e-mail list to fans.
Hausman says there hasn't been much negative feedback. "I feel that it's OK for us to do this because these people have downloaded Aimee's music without her permission," he said. "We felt we had the right to send a message saying if you want an official connection with Aimee Mann, here's how you get it."
BigChampagne, the marketing company behind Mann's campaign, launched a similar one for Glen Phillips, a singer in the defunct band Toad the Wet Sprocket. Over 4,000 copies of Phillips' upcoming solo album have been sold through the promotion that began in November.
His Web site, www.glenphillips.com has received 18,000 hits and 13,000 people have signed up for his mailing list.
A.D.D. Marketing is another company using instant messaging to reach consumers, but its method is so controversial that Matt Wechsler, who heads online marketing, can't release the names of its clients. A.D.D. finds users who have shown an interest in particular bands on Napster and other peer-to-peer services and uses live representatives to give a promotional pitch to users.
"We're targeting people who've expressed an interest in what we're marketing," Wechsler said. "I think it's going to become more popular but I'm hoping people don't abuse it and use it for non-direct purposes. I think if used correctly it's a valuable marketing strategy."
Mindy Charski, Interactive Week. February 18, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Ziff Davis Media. All rights reserved.