After building an infrastructure and sponsor base for more than two years, FreeRide.com, an online marketing and loyalty program, is embarking on its first advertising campaign, "Free-Ride to Aruba."
Between Jan. 17 and 31, visitors to FreeRide.com can register to win a free trip to Aruba. Winners will be announced Feb. 1.
New York-based FreeRide.com is working on the creative aspects of the campaign with Mezzina/Brown, New York, a traditional advertising agency. The cost of the campaign was not disclosed.
Ads touting the promotion have started running in the New York market, in print publications, on posters and on radio. FreeRide.com also plans to advertise online, but has not decided where it will place the ads, other than on its own site. As part of its marketing campaign, on Feb. 4 FreeRide.com will run free trolleys from the Battery, through Manhattan to the Bronx.
While FreeRide.com has relied on word of mouth to build its base of 500,000 consumer members and 1,600 sponsored offers, it felt the time was right for advertising. "Many businesses begin to advertise too early, before they have the rest of the machinery working," said Jordan Stanley, president and CEO of FreeRide.com. "But now that we have achieved the top status [above other reward programs] as measured by Media Metrix in total minutes per month, minutes per user session and visits per month, it's time to let other consumers play."
He added that "a half million consumers is nowhere near our ultimate ambition to create a mass-marketing vehicle."
FreeRide.com's rivals in the online loyalty program space include MyPoints.com, Netcentives.com and Cybergold.com.
The challenge for all is to sustain a high level of point redemptions, according to Stanley. "We make it very easy for our consumers to earn points through a whole variety of activities, and they receive very practical rewards that most everyone wants and uses, such as gasoline and movie tickets," said Stanley. "We give them these rewards very quickly, within three to four weeks."
Out of 210 people chosen as winners, 75 New Yorkers (and an additional 10 from outside New York) will be flown to Aruba on a chartered flight.
Runners-up will receive 15,000 Free-Ride.com points and an invitation to a party hosted by FreeRide.com in New York on Feb. 4.
FreeRide.com plans to continue its promotion in other major cities, which could include other free vacation promotions, and also is talking with advertising agencies to attract consumers overseas to its reward program.