Interactive television firm RespondTV is venturing into the tricky world of free sample
distribution, partnering with San Francisco-based FreeSamples.com in a direct marketing
pitch to users of its Internet-based set top boxes.
It is the first such alliance between an interactive media play and a product sampling firm
and both companies are touting the directness of the marketing strategy as a reason such a
deal makes sense. For RespondTV, it’s a new service it can offer its existing advertisers,
and, for FreeSamples.com, it’s a new distribution platform for its offers. Financial terms of the deal were
RespondTV allows viewers with Internet-based set-top boxes to click on their television
remote controls and get more information about a particular advertising campaign. In this
case, RespondTV will offer the delivery of free samples to its users and FreeSamples.com
will provide the back-end delivery of a company’s offering.
Todd Lash, senior vice president of RespondTV explained that viewers will be required to
answer a few marketing questions in exchange for the free samples. The answers will then by
used by FreeSamples.com to produce marketing surveys to its clients.
“The delivery is more targeted. The samples go to people who actually ask for them. So, this
will be attractive for advertisers because of the directness of the marketing. We’re
basically combining interactive television with their (FreeSamples.com’s) delivery
mechanism…It should be appealing to existing and new advertisers,” he said in an interview
One of the knocks against the concept of offering free samples as a branding gimmick is that
there is no guarantees the actual products being shoved into the hands of harried jaywalkers
are actually used or wanted. FreeSamples.com, which landed $15 million in start-up funding
in April, is pinning its hopes on the directness of the RespondTV setting to snag new
The company, which is in the midst of bridge round funding negotiations, already has an
impressive client roster which includes Unilever, Kellogg’s, Dole, Planters and Sunsweet.
Its backers include CondeNet, Hollinger International Inc., United News and Media, GE
Investments, TechSpace Xchange and Bob Lessin, chairman and CEO of WitSoundview Group, Inc.
FreeSamples.com spokesperson Jamie Kohn said the partnership offers a new avenue for the
distribution of clients’ products and new demographics to conduct market research, a key
component of its business.
“This is great exposure for us and our clients. RespondTV will offer their clients who are
national advertisers the opportunity to not only offer product sampling through the
respondTV service. They’ll also be offering their clients a full turnkey marketing
solution,” Kohn said. “It is a perfect partnership and the first of its kind,” she added.
“FreeSamples.com realizes the future potential for enhanced television advertising and we
believe that sampling is a natural extension. By partnering with RespondTV, for the first
time FreeSamples.com will provide both our advertisers and consumers with unprecedented
value through targeted interactivity.”