60 Seconds with e-Miles

60 Seconds with e-Miles

There’s a new way to earn frequent flyer miles that has the potential to offer a roundtrip award ticket within a year for spending a few minutes a day at your computer. Members of e-Miles — http://www.e-miles.com — earn miles for viewing advertising or marketing messages and answering a few brief questions. The frequent flyer programs currently participating in the program are Continental OnePass, Delta SkyMiles, US Airways Dividend Miles and Northwest Worldperks, with Air France and KLM in the works, among others. We spoke recently with Mark Drusch, president of e-Miles, who has 20 years of experience in the airline industry and is the former senior vice president for network and revenue management at Delta.

InsideFlyer
Can you give us a little background on e-Miles? Who came up with the idea?
Mark Drusch
Hal Brierley, the founder of Brierley and Partners and the leading loyalty program architect, came up with this concept approximately four years ago. The idea sprung from the success he’s had with another one of his companies, e-Rewards, the leading online research panel company in the United States. There are two primary differences between e-Rewards and e-Miles, although both reward members for their time. Number one and most importantly, e-Rewards is a research company. It conducts online panel research whereas e-Miles is specifically and only focused on online advertising — so two completely different business models. Second, e-Rewards members earn e-Rewards currency which can be converted into different sponsor benefits including airline miles, but also for things like coupons or discounts with companies like Pier One, Hilton or Hertz. A member can convert his or her currency into multiple sponsor benefits whereas with e-Miles, members are rewarded only with frequent flyer miles in their favorite frequent flyer account.

IF
Why is it that members aren’t able to switch among the frequent flyer programs?
Drusch
For two reasons. First, out of respect for our sponsor airlines. As an example, Northwest wouldn’t want to invite a Northwest member who then switches their Northwest miles to Delta miles. Second, it’s for ease of tracking for the members themselves. If you are switching back and forth, it would be difficult to keep track of which program you are maximizing.

IF
Are your membership numbers living up to your expectations?
Drusch
Membership numbers are. We’re still getting enrollments in from the invitations — we expect we’ll be somewhere between four hundred and five hundred thousand members from the first set of invitations. That’s tracking right along where we were hoping it would. Our forecast for the year is to double the number of members because during the year a couple of things will happen. Our airline partners are going to send out more invitations to invite both their new members as well as those that didn’t come on board the first time. And, we’ll be adding more airlines. A perfect example is we’ll have Air France and KLM coming on board later this year. We are literally in the stages of finalizing our contract with them and we’re still in negotiations with a couple of other U.S. carriers.

IF
Is it true that members can earn enough miles for a domestic award ticket within a year?
Drusch
Yes — it all depends on a couple of things. Number one, how engaged the member wants to be. As you know, we ask our members to fill out profiles about themselves and we use that to direct marketers to the right people. If a member is very interested in generating as many miles as possible they should fill out all their profiles. The member also has the opportunity to determine which categories of advertising they don’t want to see. As an example, if you really don’t have any interest in tobacco ads, you can choose not to view them. Basically you can earn as much as you want to earn.

Additionally, we are a start-up operation so we still are getting our feet wet with advertisers and convincing them to come on board. But by the time we go out on Feb. 6, we’ll have more than 30 launch advertisers that will be available to the various members of our audience. As you know, everyone is not going to get every ad. A perfect example, one of our advertisers is really looking for people in certain states above a certain age. If you don’t live in one of the states that they are looking for, you wouldn’t be getting an ad from that advertiser.

IF
Can you list a few of the advertisers?
Drusch
Hertz, Hilton, Coca-Cola, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Lending Tree, La Quinta, Nieman Marcus, Saks, Atlantis Hotels, Zales, I could keep going on…

IF
What has been your greatest challenge with the program so far?
Drusch
The greatest challenge is introducing a brand new concept to advertisers and advertising agencies. That is the single biggest challenge, bar none. This is the first time I’ve been part of a start-up and I had no idea how many roadblocks there are to introducing new concepts. It’s been very illuminating for me in terms of understanding how, unfortunately for a big part of American business, we make it harder for new ideas to get through as opposed to encouraging new ideas to be tested or discussed. It’s taken a lot of work and our goal is to convince many more advertisers to use e-Miles because we want our members to have as many earning opportunities as possible and we want to support our airline sponsors by buying as many miles as we can from them.

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