SURE, THERE'S A LOT OF buzz about shopping over the worldwide Internet. But even though companies are working overtime to create World Wide Web sites, no one is certain who is visiting their computerized advertising pages or if the Web pages are an effective means of reaching target customers or generating leads. Several companies, however, think they may have found the solution, and it all hinges around the Internet's most popular application: E-mail.
FreeMark Communications Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., and Juno Online Services L.P. in New York each plan to launch online services that will allow members to send E-mail to anyone on the Net--free of charge. The catch? Members will become the targets of online advertising. In FreeMark's system, to debut later this year, when a member creates E-mail, a digital advertisement appears on the bottom of the screen. By clicking on the icon, the recipient can call up additional information or perhaps a discount coupon that can be printed out and taken to a local retailer. Incoming mail will have "digital stamps" that bear a sponsor's logo or branded product. Members of Juno's system will see a banner of advertisers in a window on the computer screen. Both companies say that they will be able to help advertisers zero in on their target audiences.