Data Vendors Marketing Drills Deeper


SoftNet Systems Inc.'s ISP Channel and High-Speed Access Corp. are running second-quarter promotional campaigns designed to attract the next generation of subscribers to their cable affiliates' high-speed-data services.

In a campaign called, "Everything Else Is History," ISP Channel consumer ads and direct-mail pieces highlight a fictional museum of slow things. Pictured are slow-brewed beer and slow-moving traffic, as well as an Internet user who has fallen asleep at his keyboard while waiting for a dial-up modem to download a Web page.

While the ads are humorous, they use that humor to make a point, rather than for its own sake.

ISP Channel was cognizant of the "dot-com phenomenon," vice president of marketing and product development Cindy Chalfant said. She pointed to recent studies showing that when consumers watch some high-profile dot-com television advertising, they end up remembering the ad, but not the company mentioned in it.

In a campaign that broke late last month, HSA is targeting for the first time "the early majority," and not just the early adopter of high-speed services. HSA director of marketing Tracy Donahue said the early majority are people who are not as comfortable with new technologies and who are lighter Internet users than the early adopters.

"The industry has not sufficiently penetrated this market," Donahue added.

To reach the new generation of customers, HSA's ads focus on the benefits of high-speed access in everyday applications, rather than on the speed itself. One ad, for example, shows a young girl doing her homework faster than she could using a dial-up modem or going to the library. Another shows a long-distance grandmother viewing videos of her grandchildren online.

People today are using home computers differently than they had in the past, and the HSA ads were created to reflect that, vice president of sales and marketing Thorn Landers said. Rather than being relegated to a home office, computers are staying on all day long in the family room or the kitchen in many homes, he added.


ISP Channel, too, wants to speak about the specific ways subscribers use online services.

"We're developing ads designed to sell consumers on the four greatest uses of Internet access," ISP Channel marketing-communications manager Maureen Waters said. Research shows that those four uses are e-mail; news and information; making travel arrangements; and shopping online, she added.

High-speed service allows e-mail users to attach photos more readily, lets news fans watch live video streams as news breaks and allows travelers to take virtual tours of their destinations before they book their reservations.

A total of 56 ISP Channel affiliates are participating in the second-quarter campaign. The company has separate campaigns for markets that are just starting to launch the service in their areas. For markets beyond the launch phase, ISP Channel typically offers four turnkey customer-acquisition promotions each year.

For the first time, ISP Channel is incorporating co-branding with the cable operators' names within direct-mail pieces. "We're doing significant customization in recognition of our cable affiliates' needs," Chalfant said.

ISP Channel is giving operators as much flexibility as it can with the campaign. For example, affiliates can start the 10-week campaign anytime after today (May 1), as long as the promotion ends before August 11.

Extending the campaign's run time to 10 weeks from the typical six allows ISP Channel "to put more direct mail in the marketplace," Chalfant said, adding that the company has produced more than 1 million pieces of collateral for the campaign.

The company allows operators to offer one of three incentives during the promotion. "Almost 95 percent of our affiliates took the first option"-a $49.95 connection offer, plus one month of free service-Chalfant said.

Other options include three months of free service to customers who rent modems at $10 per month, or one-half-off the installation price plus a 90-day guarantee.


HSA's promotion offers subscribers a $100 savings off the cost of installation, which brings the price down to $49.95. Consumers can also receive rebates for three months of service.

The company plans to test consumer response to the campaign over the next two months, Donahue said. "We're trying to evolve to the next batch of customers," Landers added. "The early customers were very technically savvy."

Newer customers might not understand terms like 500 megabits or 1 kilobit, he added, which is why the company is stressing everyday benefits instead. And early adopters looking for high-speed service will still recognize the value, even though the ads are targeted to a broader customer base, Landers contended.

Materials for the HSA promotion include TV spots, bill inserts, direct mail and customer-service-representative training.