Will Consumers Watch Ads for Air Miles?

NEW YORK While many consumers are doing all they can to avoid advertisers, others are making them pay. Flinty consumers can soon watch ads to extract everything from cell phone minutes to digital music. The latest lure: airline frequent flier miles.

Hal Brierley, the founder of e-Rewards, a site that gives users reward points for filling out surveys and receiving marketer e-mails, is branching into advertising with E-Miles, an online service that will give users frequent flier miles for watching or reading ads and responding to questions about them. It is set to launch in January.

The company is the latest to try its hand at directly compensating time-starved consumers for their time. Virgin Mobile in June launched Sugar Mama, a service that offers its young user base free airtime for watching Web video spots. Former Universal McCann chairman Robin Kent is readying the introduction of SpiralFrog, which trades digital music for ad attention.

E-Miles has managed to sign five of the top six U.S. airlines (American Airlines is the lone holdout) to the service. Users identify their main frequent flier account, and then fill out a short profile of their demographic information, such as geography, age and income. They are then given the option to fill out interest profiles from 13 categories, which are then used by advertisers to target offers and ads. Users can identify the type of ads they do not want to receive. A New York City resident, for instance, could decline auto ads.

“The more relevant [the ads] and the more control the consumer has, the more they will engage,” said Mark Drusch, president of E-Miles and a former Delta Air Lines executive.

E-Miles has enrolled several advertisers for the service, including LendingTree, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Hilton Hotels.

E-Miles is relying, in large part, on the airlines themselves to publicize the service to the 800,000 members of their frequent flier programs.

Drusch said the air miles as a reward currency is attractive because they are something consumers intuitively understand and attract a higher value demographic than something like cell phone minutes. E-Miles is designed to allow a consumer spending five minutes a day viewing and responding to ads to earn 25,000 miles in a year, enough for a free round-trip ticket.

“It’s building of the simple concept that people want to be rewarded for their time,” he said.