Bank of America has begun advertising its credit cards through the Juno free e-mail service.
The multiyear agreement with Juno Online Services Inc. is the first such joint marketing venture of the BankAmerica Corp. unit. It had been advertising on its own Internet site.
Bank of America's Juno ads appear as on-screen banners and pop-ups. They are transmitted to Juno's more than five million subscribers.
The deal is representative of banks' growing interest in the Internet as a marketing channel. Banks of all sizes have been devising ways to cash in on the popularity of on-line services and Web surfing. Hoping to reach millions, many have formed partnerships with the likes of America Online, the largest on-line service, and World Wide Web search engine companies Excite and Yahoo.
Juno, which finances its free service through advertising revenue, is a slightly different type of provider. It does not offer Internet access to members, except to connect them to the Web sites of companies that pay for the privilege.
To join Juno, people must answer a 20-question survey that asks, among other things, their address, age, family size, and income. The information is used to create individualized promotions.
Since Juno's kickoff in April 1996, its advertisers have included Chase Manhattan Corp., American Express Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., Salomon Smith Barney, Microsoft Corp., and Scudder Investor Services Inc.
"Marketing via on-line services is relatively new, and this will give us yet another opportunity to learn more about it," said Betty Reiss, a Bank of America spokeswoman.
Juno subscribers can apply for the San Francisco bank's cards through a secure, on-line application form. Bank of America's own Web site also lets people apply for cards and lets cardholders view account information.
Ms. Reiss said the Juno deal is an extra opportunity for Bank of America to gauge customer interest in submitting on-line applications. All Juno advertisers get automated reports documenting the performance of their ads.
"The Internet is becoming increasingly popular, so we want to take a look at our options," Ms. Reiss said.
Juno executive vice president Robert Cherins said Bank of America credit cards have been advertised since early May and response rates have been "very good."
When the bank begins to measure the approval rates of Juno members who applied on-line, it will be able further to judge the program, he said.
Though the current agreement is only with the credit card division of Bank of America, Mr. Cherins said discussions are under way to advertise other products.
"Advertising on-line is an enormous savings over traditional credit card marketing like direct mail," Mr. Cherins said.
Russ Schoper, president of Business Developments International of Alpharetta, Ga., said the Internet is ripe for credit card marketing because the user demographics are favorable.
"Everybody is looking for new avenues to reach those consumers, Mr. Schoper said.
He said advertising on the Internet has become the "normal order of things" in "the current card acquisition environment."
MasterCard International recently inked a marketing deal with Excite to promote on-line shopping. First USA Bank, a Banc One Corp. unit and leader in on-line credit card marketing, has aligned with Excite competitor Yahoo. Visa U.S.A. has developed ties with America Online, which touts a cobranded Visa platinum card issued by First USA.
"The more opportunities issuers have to reach consumers on a cost- effective basis, the better chance they have to hold on to market share," Mr. Schoper said.