Can your calendar or your e-mail predict what products and services you're thinking of buying? BlueTie.com thinks so--and the company believes it can do so more effectively than Gmail.
BlueTie's product is called the "featuretisement," and a story in this week's Forbes details company founder David Koretz's plans for growth:One thing's certain: Koretz understand the pitfalls of advertising on social networks, so his plan is to develop interactive solutions, not just passive ads:
"[F]eaturetisements," match an event someone types into his calendar or e-mail (such as a trip to Chicago) with, say, a possibly useful ad detailing flights that day.
So far [Koretz] has 26 brands, including Orbitz, ftd, Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Amazon, advertising to clusters of his 3 million e-mail customers. BlueTie gets paid only if someone books a ticket or buys flowers. Koretz says 2% are doing just that, while the average rate for merely clicking through on the Web is 0.5%.
He has spent the past few months trying to sell BlueTie's featuretisement technology to Facebook, Microsoft and MySpace...
He thought of featuretisements one night after a meeting with managers of Google's Gmail service, which was already placing targeted ads alongside messages. "They told me not to go into application advertising, because they were going to own the space. I was frustrated and spent six hours brainstorming with a colleague," he says. The two realized that Gmail is often on the wrong end of a communication. "If I send you a message about my Kilimanjaro climb, you'll see ads for treks in Africa. But you never signaled you had any interest in going there. That got us thinking about what people do signal."
Koretz and others say social network members want to share messages and photos with their friends, not click on ads. A few of the scenarios he has talked up to Facebook and MySpace: a click-to-print capability (via a service like Kodak's) for all those photos, an option to buy movie tickets based on an instant message exchange and gift-buying buttons that flash alongside birthday notifications. Says Koretz: "You have to see intent, and then not annoy the hell out of people."I don't know if BlueTie's idea will fly. But Koretz's last quote--"You have to see intent, and then not annoy the hell out of people"--is the best description I've seen in while of what it takes to be a successful 21st-century marketer. Whether you're advertising on TV, in the paper, or on the web, keep those words in mind.