'Irreverent' VidiGreet Plans Post-Valentine's Day E-Card Launch

Targeting a mostly young male audience, a startup called VidiGreet is preparing to debut its e-card service on Feb. 15, the day after Valentine's Day.

The curious launch date is representative of VidiGreet's larger business strategy, which can only be described as counterintuitive. For instance, while its founder and president Jeff Gorman has an extensive agency background--having directed spots for the likes of Nike, Bud Light, and Staples--VidiGreet is launching as an ad-free subscription service.

"We like being irreverent like our audience," Gorman said. "I wanted to keep the site pure at first, but advertising is something we might consider."

Using non-union actors and professional writers agreeing to back-end royalty deals, Gorman has so far amassed over 400 video shorts, ranging from 15 seconds to two minutes in length. For $3.99, VidiGreet subscribers will be able to send an unlimited number of greetings for a day, while $15.99 will get them unlimited greetings for a year.

Amid the current boom in consumer-generated media, VidiGreet is not the first e-card provider to target young males. Sites like RattleBox.com and JibJab.com have already started offering customizable greetings, which let people add their own photos or personal messages to videos. Similarly, many of VidiGreet e-cards can be customized with audio and video unloaded by users.

While sales of e-cards are difficult to track, Hallmark estimates that about 300 million e-cards are sent every year, while American Greetings saw a 10% rise in traffic to e-card sites last year. ComScore Media Metrix, meanwhile, reports that 39.7 million people visited e-card sites in Nov. 2007, compared with 39.3 million in Nov. 2006.

Also, from spirits maker Jim Beam to Paramount Pictures, advertisers are busy testing e-cards as a promotional vehicle. By far, the biggest e-card hit thus far was the OfficeMax ElfYourself holiday campaign. For the past two seasons, the site created by EVB San Francisco and Toy NY has invited users to plaster their own pictures on dancing elves, which can then be emailed to friends and family. Remarkably, in the six weeks from Nov. 20, 2007 to Jan. 2, 2008, the ElfYourself site recorded over 193 million visits, while over 123 million elves were created.

Working with a particular advertiser on a promotion campaign is certainly something Gorman would consider, he said. "It's not our focus at launch, but it makes perfect sense."

Gorman does however, have imminent plans to allow consumers to submit their own produced videos under back-end royalty agreements--a move that would bring VidiGreet in line with numerous video-sharing sites and consumer-generated media networks like XLNTads.com, which serves as a middleman between advertisers and amateur ad creators.

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