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Ad service gives cash back

PowerAgent delivers custom-filtered promotional offers and cash back to consumers, as well as a targeted audience to advertisers.

A new Internet advertising service being unveiled today promises to deliver promotional offers and cash back to consumers, as well as a targeted audience to advertisers.

Called PowerAgent, the service defines itself as a filtering system, sorting ads based on subscribers' preferences and interests, then delivering them in a concise format. Users can get relevant information and ads in a single daily email.

PowerAgent sports strict privacy protections and a "better than free" slogan. As an incentive to use the service, the company will pay individuals at least 25 percent of the revenue from ads each user views. The company estimates that may kick back $10 to $20 per year for each user.

"You will get more value for a few minutes a month than you get out of hours of Web surfing," said David Carlick, an ad industry and Internet veteran who serves as "network president" of the new service. "For advertisers, it's simply more cost-effective."

Because the system is anonymous, advertisers never know the identities or email addresses of PowerAgent enrollees. Users also can request additional information anonymously.

"Your personal profile is your property," said Carlick, who founded the DoubleClick Internet advertising network.

To enroll, individuals complete a questionnaire about interests and preferences; profiles can be changed at any time. During registration, users select what companies or categories of goods and services they are interested in receiving, as well as those they wish to block.

PowerAgent then matches personal profiles with messages from advertisers. Client identities and online profiles cannot be matched, even by PowerAgent.

"This system is all about scale," said Carlick. PowerAgent aims to have several hundred thousand registrations when it goes live in late October and more than 1 million next year. Based on estimated revenue of $80 per user, that points to annualized revenue of $80 million by the end of 1998.

PowerAgent, with 30 ad reps and 60 telemarketers, is offering "bounties" to Web sites that help sign up individuals, paying sites ten percent of the revenue their prospects generate in the first year.

PowerAgent ad rates will range from $5 to $30 per 1,000 impressions or messages delivered, relatively low by Internet standards for such targeted ads.

Founded in 1994, PowerAgent's investors include St. Paul Venture Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Associates, Information Technology Ventures, Peregrine Capital, Discovery Ventures, Fayez Sarofim, and computer services firm EDS, which also hosts the PowerAgent site and service.