E-centives Looks to Tie Offline to Online

Online marketer e-centives revealed Thursday that it has quietly purchased rival technology firm BrightStreet, and hatched plans to integrate the smaller firm’s patented service into its own offerings for on- and offline marketing.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, will give control of BrightStreet’s ASP solution to Bethesda, Md.-based e-centives. The service issues and tracks online coupons or loyalty points that are redeemable in offline stores, building consumer profiles on the coupons’ users in the process.

In conjunction with e-centives’ own online loyalty marketing and e-mail tools, the acquisition will help e-centives create a closed-loop offering for marketers. Ideally, marketers would use e-centives’ affiliate network to offer consumers special promotions, which can be redeemed on the Web or in brick-and-mortar stores. Once customers begin redeeming those coupons, the system can begin building profiles on them, which could be used for remarketing via e-centives’ e-mail marketing suite and through other channels.

“We think it appeals very highly to folks, for instance, in the consumer packaged goods industry,” said e-centives president and chief operating officer Dadi Akhavan, “What they can do is start to establish direct relationships with consumers — lots are looking at the Internet now, instead of just mass marketing promotions through newspapers. They’re looking at really identifying who consumer is and communicating with them directly.”

E-centives also expands the number of publishers carrying its offers through the arrangement, adding to its roster BrightStreet’s affiliates, which include Terra Lycos.

BrightStreet based in Cupertino, Calif., had been backed by newspaper publishers the McClatchy Company and Central Newspapers, and direct marketing giant Cox Target Media, a unit of Cox Communications. Through the purchase, the company will be appended to e-centives’ Redwood City, Calif. office, with BrightStreet chief executive Scott Willis becoming a senior vice president at e-centives.

The move continues e-centives’ efforts to extend its product line beyond online loyalty services, to outsourced marketing technology in general. In recent years, the company turned its e-mail marketing service into a standalone ASP offering for marketers. A year ago, the company bought Internet infrastructure player Inktomi’s commerce division, the prime jewel of which was a comparison-shopping engine.

“Our goal has been to expand our offerings on multiple fronts, both for marketing and advertisers, and in terms of a value proposition for consumers,” Akhavan said. “So it’s natural to fit in with the concept of printing a coupon off the Internet and taking it into the store. For the past couple of years, people have been focused on e-commerce … but most people still do all their shopping at the local store.”

E-centives isn’t the only player pursuing ways to link traditional and Internet marketing systems. Internet ad giant DoubleClick, for instance recently took the wraps off an ASP tool for clients of its Abacus co-opt offline database, allowing them to track the on- and offline results of marketing campaigns.

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