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Making the pitch for pay-per-view

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As worldwide creative director at Grey Advertising in the early 1990s, Erica Ress led the team that established Procter & Gamble’s Pantene Pro-V line of shampoo, helping to boost it from a tiny market share to 20% of the $20 billion-a-year domestic shampoo and conditioner industry.

In 2000, Ress decided to bring her 15 years of experience in advertising’s big leagues to a small dot-com start-up. As VP-U.S. business development and sales for AllCharge Inc., New York, her job is to market software and services that allow businesses to sell digital content over the Internet via micro payments.

In a recent interview with BtoB, Ress discussed her move and defended AllCharge’s business model.

BtoB: How did you land at AllCharge?

Ress: About 18 months ago, I looked at the business plans for 100 dot-coms and advertising agencies. AllCharge had the best business plan.

BtoB: Weren’t you skeptical? Pay-per-view Internet models have been talked of since the first days of the Internet, but they’ve never taken hold.

Ress: You are right. This was not a successful industry. The business model was not working because almost every system required the content developer to change their site, mirror their site or try to get end-user customers to install client software.

Our business is a Web service, built on the basis of IP [Internet protocol]. It allows a marketing director to see everything that’s already on their site and manage what’s for sale. On the customer side, AllCharge’s technology is set up so that even someone like me—and I am not a computer person—can configure it.

BtoB: What industries are you initially focusing on?

Ress: We’re focusing on music, entertainment and gaming.

BtoB: The adult porn industry is often the one you think of when you think of micro payments for content. Yet AllCharge is not directly involved with any porn industry vendors. Why?

Ress: Because you don’t want to go into the adult market without being very aware of what you are doing. Working with the adult market might mean you aren’t dealing with large entertainment companies. Once you go down that road, you can’t go back. So, you have to know what your goals are.

BtoB: Is there going to be any demand for pay-per-view systems in business-to-business?

Ress: We think so. Our payment system can be used as a way for people to attend business meetings on the Internet or engage in Web-based conferencing. We think some businesses will sell things like speeches, where if you want to see the first five minutes you get it for free, but after that the clock starts ticking.

BtoB: How did you allocate your marketing and sales resources in 2001, and what is planned for 2002?

Ress: A week before our formal launch, Napster became a big story, which could not have been a better way to bring our technology and expertise to view. Public relations will continue to be one area of focus. A lot of our marketing and sales resources are also budgeted to conduct face-to-face client demonstrations with key potential clients. Once we get in a door once, we really need to maximize the potential of those meetings and are willing to invest in those opportunities.

BtoB: You also have business development in your title. What is going on with AllCharge in this area?

Ress: We have all sorts of things going on, including discussions with information companies that allow you to set up a corporate account and purchase research whenever the need arises.

BtoB: Why did AllCharge stay in the background for so long before launching in late 2001?

Ress: We were definitely in stealth mode for a long time. We wanted to wait until we were really live and had a good story to get out there with beta references, analyst references and other contacts. It worked pretty well. We’re rolling out five or six new corporate installations acquired since our marketing launch over the next couple of weeks.

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