In one of its first Internet-related deals, Capital One Financial Corp. has signed a marketing agreement with on-line advertising agency DoubleClick Inc.

Capital One has been slower than some other large credit card issuers- notably Bank One Corp.'s First USA division, Providian Financial Corp., and Fleet Financial Group-to make a splash on the Internet. Its top executives said the DoubleClick deal, which took effect May 15, marks the beginning of efforts to fortify Internet activities.

Under the deal, the advertising agency places on-line ads for Capital One on certain clients' Web sites. Capital One, of Falls Church, Va., gains the status of "preferred credit card issuer" on DoubleClick sites.

The agency, based in New York, maintains the "DoubleClick Network" of 60 Web sites-including Altavista, Dilbert, U.S. News & World Report, and Macromedia-to which it funnels advertising.

DoubleClick calls its ad placement system, in which it selects the sites with the most favorable demographics for each advertiser, "dynamic advertising reporting and targeting." Among the sites where Capital One's ads might appear are those of the A&E television network's "Biography" program; Modern Bride magazine; and AT&T, whose AnyWho site-a telephone directory lookup service-is in the DoubleClick Network.

Terms of the DoubleClick/Capital One agreement were not disclosed, but industry sources said Capital One will pay commissions only when a new card account is generated through the ads, not when an on-line application is submitted. This skirts a complaint by some card issuers that applications received on-line tend to be of lower quality than those garnered from direct mail.

Capital One is "committed to do a lot more than just advertise our products on-line," said Richard D. Fairbank, chairman and chief executive officer. "Our partnership with DoubleClick will enable us to strategically target and acquire new customers, to enhance our own successful information-based strategy."

Capital One has placed a few ads on the Internet before and recently ended a short-lived marketing agreement with Priceline.com. But it has yet to embrace the network, which card industry analysts say is well suited to the company's philosophy of tailoring products to consumers.

Nigel Morris, president and chief operating officer of Capital One, said the agreement with DoubleClick is "just the beginning" of Capital One's Internet activities.

Also in the works is enhancing Capital One's Web site. Analysts said the company plans to set up on-line customer service and introduce instant decisions for on-line card applications.

First USA, of Wilmington, Del., is one of several card issuers already offering these features. In terms of partnerships with Internet companies, First USA stands well ahead of its rivals, with more than 50 deals.

"First USA uses more of a mass-marketing approach," said Gary Gordon, managing director at PaineWebber Inc. in New York. Capital One's deal with DoubleClick is "more of a target-marketing approach."

Capital One said DoubleClick will develop Internet banners, buttons, and electronic mail message links that market card products to specific types of consumers.

DoubleClick this week announced plans to merge with Abacus Direct Corp., which markets consumer purchasing data to catalogue firms.

Kelly Freeman, director of electronic commerce at DoubleClick, said the agreement will help Capital One "diversify its strategy" instead of "relying just on one portal."

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