Al Gore's staff has found a little surprise in the vice president's official electronic-mail box over the past two months: 170,000 e-mail messages with a "save the trees" theme, courtesy of the Washington-based Juno Advocacy Network.
The campaign, which ran from May 5 to July 5, was the largest yet by the network, a Washington-based arm of the free e-mail provider Juno Online Services Inc. of New York. The idea: use the information that people disclose about themselves in Juno's online registration forms to organize "grass-roots" political campaigns.
Juno's subscribers, who now number 7 million, answer questions such as how many children they have, what kinds of electronic equipment they plan to buy in the next 12 months, how often they go to movies and what sports and hobbies they enjoy.
Juno uses that information to target advertisements to its users, and with the advocacy network to help create political campaigns (for a fee). Senior citizens, for example, could be targeted for a Medicare issue, parents of school-age children for an education debate.
The flood that hit Gore's office was on behalf of the network's client Heritage Forests Campaign, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts. It began with a message to the half million subscribers who checked hiking or camping as a favorite activity. Each was invited to fill in his or her name and real-world address and send a form letter to Gore asking him to "permanently protect all roadless areas in the national forest larger than 1,000 acres."
Later, the same message went to an additional 1 million people older than 18.
All told, 170,000 people sent messages to Gore through the free e-mail service. Juno usually gets a 6 percent to 12 percent response rate on political campaigns, but this was twice the size of any other lobbying push so far, says Roger Stone, the advocacy network's head.
"The big strength of the network is it builds on Juno's base of 7 million subscribers," he says. "We have the ability to target people with advertising most appealing to them."
The client, Heritage, gets to keep the list of respondents to target for future issues.
"The Internet is a way nonprofits can maximize their interaction with the public," says Sarah DiJulio of Heritage. She says she only expected 30,000 to 40,000 messages.
So was it effective? Press people at Gore's office were unable to give us an answer yesterday. But a Heritage official did say that a systems person from Gore's office had called to ask what was going on.
It's the sandwich board of the technology age.
A D.C. marketing company, Adwheels, is hiring out "skatertisers" to skate around with a flat-panel computer screen displaying the customer's World Wide Web site strapped to their bodies.
"It looks like a Teletubby," explains company chief executive Lawrence Rassin.
Adwheels recently has done campaigns promoting the CompuServe service of America Online Inc. of Dulles and Discovery's new health Web site.
The skatertisers are professional models who skate, hand out T-shirts and answer simple questions about the product. For impact, they usually travel in packs of 20 or so, with five who have the 15-inch screens.
"It's sleek. It's not cumbersome," Rassin says. "I can be on the Internet in the middle of Central Park for a Web launch."
Usually they take advantage of a large computer-oriented crowd, like the Internet World exhibition in Los Angeles or PC World in Chicago. But Rassin thinks it's gone over particularly well in New York, where you need a real novelty to get attention. "They've seen everything in New York," he says.
WebMethods Inc. has landed a $12 million venture-capital infusion led by Goldman Sachs & Co. of New York and the Mayfield Fund of Menlo Park, Calif., says chief executive Phillip Merrick. Much of the money will go toward an expansion into Europe planned for this summer.
Mayfield invested in WebMethods' first round, and also has money in Varsitybooks.com of Washington and Motley Fool of Alexandria. "They have a partner here almost once a week," Merrick says.
The Potomac Council of the American Electronics Association, which focuses on issues affecting Washington area technology companies, is losing its executive director, Kevin Carroll, to the West Coast.
Carroll, who has been running the council for a year and a half, will head up the San Diego Council of the AEA.
The Potomac Council's chairman, Michael Jalbert, also recently left the area, to run a Lincoln, Neb., technology company called Transcrypt International Inc. after turning around and then selling Microdyne Corp.to L-3 Communications.
Remember that feeling when the domain name you loved turned out to be already registered by someone else?
Don't feel so bad. Even Internet giant America Online Inc. doesn't always get what it wants.
In late June, AOL launched its service in Brazil, where logically the site would be called www.aol.com.br, with the "br" as the country designation.
But it turned out that one of the largest Internet service providers in Brazil already had the domain, and AOL was left with the turned-around www.br.aol.com.
It may not be over yet. AOL has filed suit against that company in Brazil and says it will continue to try to get the name back. Stay tuned.
Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at email@example.com
TechThursday columnist Shannon Henry will host a live Web chat today at 1 p.m. with Christopher R. McCleary, chief executive of USinternetworking and former head of Digex Inc. The subject: starting up a company and taking it public. To participate, go to www.washingtonpost.com.
CAPTION: The Juno Advocacy Network, a Washington-based arm of Juno Online Services Inc., flooded Vice President Gore's office with 170,000 e-mails, each complete with signature and home address, on behalf of the Heritage Forests Campaign.
CAPTION: Some of Adwheels' in-line billboards in New York.