Free ISP puts focus on e-commerce

IFarm Network, which launched its Funcow.com Internet Club in Toronto and Montreal last month, is the latest in a slew of free or low-cost Internet Service Providers that are quickly building large, captive, Internet-savvy audiences ripe for the picking by online...

IFarm Network, which launched its Funcow.com Internet Club in Toronto and Montreal last month, is the latest in a slew of free or low-cost Internet Service Providers that are quickly building large, captive, Internet-savvy audiences ripe for the picking by online marketers.

The Toronto company’s main offering is a yearly Internet service membership for $25.99. In June, it also plans to launch a free Internet service aimed at the student and teen market, says John McDonald, marketing and public relations administrator for iFarm Network.

Funcow.com offers the same services as many traditional ISPs, including e-mail, a search engine, daily news, stock quotes, weather and shopping, but at a fraction of the cost. Yet, while it will rely to some degree on advertising and membership fees, iFarm hopes to generate the bulk of its revenues by adding e-commerce functionality to its site and collecting transaction fees for purchases that are made by its members.

iFarm currently has alliances with 200 e-merchants and affiliates, including Chapters, Indigo, CDUniverse, MP3, Reel.com, CDPlus, RealGoods.com and Sony Music Direct, and it plans to launch its own online stores to sell gifts like chocolates and flowers, and perhaps even computers and apparel, McDonald says.

‘The free [Internet access] market in particular hasn’t had a big e-commerce focus,’ says McDonald. ‘Right now, it’s a very powerful direct marketing tool for advertisers, but I think it could eventually become much more involved with e-commerce.’

In the existing free ISP model, advertisers pick up the Web user’s Internet access bill in exchange for the right to collect personal information about them and target specific ads to their computer screens. Users of Funcow.com’s soon-to-be-released free teen-targeted offering will be marketed to based on their demographic profile via ads that remain visible on the computer screen at all times while the user is on the Internet.

Members who pay for Funcow.com’s yearly membership plan, however, will not be asked to provide personal information, he says, and they will have 100% viewable space without fixed banner ads.

Free ISPs have already taken over the U.S. marketplace, with NetZero, the largest ISP in the U.S., leading the way. By 2003, more than 13 million U.S. households are expected to actively use free ISP services, according to a December report by New York-based Jupiter Communications. While the free model will not displace traditional for-fee models – most online consumers are more concerned with download speeds and reliability, than cost – the free market is expected to continue to experience rapid growth in the U.S., Jupiter says.

Last year marked the debut of the free Internet access category in Canada and, although it is not yet experiencing quite the same growth or competition here, the pace is picking up. Toronto-based TurboShuttle launched its free HomeFreeWeb.com service Canada-wide in the fall. Meanwhile, Calgary-based Cybersurf Corp., which also began serving the Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto markets last year, is now primed to offer its free e-mail and Internet service, called 3Web to the Vancouver market in April.

Cybersurf recently announced that its 3Web Network has amassed over 270,000 subscribers, making it one of Canada’s largest Internet Service Providers. Based on the network’s current growth rate – 1,500 to 3,000 people subscribe daily the company says it should have no problem hitting the one million-user mark by Labour Day.

In an effort to drive users to its Funcow.com site, iFarm is currently offering a daily draw for a free computer. It hopes to attract up to 500,000 members by year’s end.

This year, iFarm has set aside just under $4 million for advertising. It has already been promoting the service on radio and is about to debut newspaper ads in both Toronto and Montreal and television commercials on local Toronto stations like Citytv and CFTO. It is also setting up booths in Toronto and Montreal malls to distribute Funcow.com CDs, and will begin handing them out at universities and student hangouts once the free service is launched this summer.

iFarm also plans to roll out a program whereby the company will equip about 400 coffee houses and retail locations in Toronto and Montreal with computer systems and Funcow.com Internet access. The systems, designed to create awareness and encourage e-commerce revenues, will be free for visitors and shopkeepers to use. No timeline for that initiative has been announced.

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.