The Web is looking a lot like the frequent flyer skies with the formation of yet another incentive marketing service. Omnicom Group's Alcone Marketing Group, New York, today introduces NetPerks, which it bills as the first "frequent surfer" program on the Internet that offers consumers free Internet access and prizes for interacting with an advertiser's site.
NO SPONSORS YET
"I think there's going to be a lot of different programs out there that seek to motivate activity and action," says Matt Alcone, president and CEO at Alcone. And while he admits, "there's a lot of programs that offer pieces of what NetPerks has" he claims that none match what it offers marketers in terms of backend software support, supplied by EDS, and ways to redeem incentive points.
Just like a frequent flyer program, advertisers who sign on to NetPerks become category-exclusive sponsors, with their incentives listed on NetPerks' Web site directory, which will also provide direct links to the sponsors' sites. NetPerks consumer site, which is being designed by On Ramp, New York, is expected to launch in mid '97.
The site will enable people to enroll in the free service and then earn NetPerks Points by interacting with sponsors' sites and making on- and off-line purchases. Points, which will be determined by each sponsor, can go toward free Internet usage or prizes awarded in the online NetPerks Store, which could be anything from subscriptions to Web zines to sponsors' merchandise.
And while NetPerks hasn't signed on any official sponsors, fellow Omnicom agencies have been shopping the program to their clients for the past two months and are in final meetings with several of them, Mr. Alcone said.
He also said the service is in negotiations with four major Internet Service Providers, as well as potential sponsors from the financial services, telecommunications, computer hardware, airlines and automobile sectors.
FREERIDE A COMPETITOR
Alcone isn't the only one to be setting up frequent surfer incentives though. In December, Mezzina Brown spun off FreeRide Media, a company that offers a similar service, awarding free Internet time and prize incentives to people who earn points interacting with advertisers' sites. But unlike NetPerks, FreeRide opened its doors with a large collection of sponsors, including Clairol, Nabisco Biscuit Co., Newsweek and Lever Brothers.
What gives NetPerks an edge, Mr. Alcone insists, is its backend technology, which allows sponsors to identify and e-mail customized offerings to members.
However, the success of NetPerks depends largely on which incentive programs prove most valuable to consumers; and the number of programs out there grows daily.
CASH THE BEST INCENTIVE
Interactive Media Works uses a phone card concept called SampleNet to offer a few hours of free Internet usage and has signed Procter & Gamble on for a test period. Cybergold gives consumers points for each ad they read on the Web, and those points can be swapped for cash or products.
"Our experience is that people appreciate recognition for going to a site," said Kim Criswell, director of corporate affairs at Cybergold. "But, we found that points are not as effective as cash incentives."
Meanwhile, Alcone believes that linking NetPerks to a major airlines' frequent flyer program is crucial to helping consumers understand the often confusing incentives and awards system.
"I think our main marketing challenge will be to communicate in a simple way," Mr. Alcone said.
Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.