Upstart Hopes These Promos Speak To Online Marketers

Hoping to offer marketers a low-cost supplement to their current Internet programs, Tampa-based upstart YouSpeak has added "talking coupons" to its slate of offerings. And while a talking coupon sounds like something out of the Ralph Kramden playbook, there's reason to believe that the program could resonate with small and medium-sized advertisers.

The idea is to offer time-sensitive information in a highly personalized manner. Here's how it works: Clients record an audio message, which the company then converts into a file that can be embedded into web sites and emails. The coupons play immediately when the link is clicked.

YouSpeak President Bill Bledsoe doesn't pretend that the talking coupons are anything other than a supplemental marketing device. He notes, however, that they are considerably cheaper and less intrusive than web offerings like pop-ups or flash ads, and is blunt about their primary appeal: "You can buy it for pennies and offer it as a value-added service."

For a $100 set-up fee and $95 per month, YouSpeak will provide an unlimited number of voice messages, unlimited message playbacks, and documentation/lead reporting via its VeriCoupon system. For $7 per month (the company's cheapest offering), users can get 1,000 message playbacks and three audio links. "You only pay for the messages that are listened to," Bledsoe adds.

Is this the cure-all for companies that have seen expensive web marketing programs do little more than exasperate intrusion-weary web surfers? Obviously not. But to date, YouSpeak has enjoyed success with car dealers and dating services, and Bledsoe is optimistic about ongoing discussions with BBDO in Detroit (for a host of Dodge dealers) and car giant AutoNation. "People like audio on web sites," he says. "I think it makes the Internet more of a three-dimensional experience. It's simple and it's effective."

Clearly, there are drawbacks to the YouSpeak model--most notably, sound quality. The product is designed for maximum flexibility, allowing clients to update their messages by phone whenever they choose. This, however, means that the company's ads and coupons don't exactly boast studio-quality sound.

Similarly, there's no guarantee that computer users will have their speakers on at all times. "Like with anything else, yeah, there are some concerns," Bledsoe acknowledges. "But we've done a lot to offer a high-quality, reliable, affordable product."

For an example of YouSpeak's ads, visit

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