HBO Develops Interactive Calling Card


A new-media start-up company is targeting cable operators
and programming networks that want to go beyond traditional brochures and business cards
in their quest for a memorable direct-mail piece or leave-behind.

Ember Media Corp. has created for Home Box Office a
proprietary "DigiCard" -- sized and shaped like a credit card, but incorporating
the multimedia functions of a CD-ROM.

HBO ordered 52,000 cards to distribute to students at
historically black colleges during the Urbanworld Film Festival College Tour, which the
network is sponsoring in February and March, Ember president Clayton Banks said.

Banks added that the network's objective was to drive
traffic to HBO's
Web site, which highlights the diverse range of programming geared to the same

The card -- which features additional audio and video
highlights not found on the Web site -- includes a built-in hyperlink to the site for
recipients who have access to CD-ROM drives with pull-out trays. Others can access the
site through the address printed on the front of the card (

The direct Web address was created specifically for the
promotion to help measure consumer response to the card.

Banks said it's too early to gauge response to the HBO
card, since the promotion is ongoing. But when similar cards were created for other
industries, he added, response rates to the Web sites were 20 percent within two to three
weeks of a direct mailing.

Anecdotal response to the HBO card has been positive, Banks
said. "I've gotten calls from class presidents," he explained. "Folks are
going nuts over this."

Banks added that people under 30 have no fear of new
technologies like the DigiCard.

HBO declined to comment for this story, saying that it's
against company policy to appear to endorse any outside agency.

Banks said the cards cost HBO about $2 each.

"One of the great elements of multimedia is that you
have much more freedom to be niche-oriented," Banks said. "You can really design
your presentation to a more targeted audience."

Banks advised other networks and cable operators to set up
different Web sites for specific audiences.