Comcast Taps Georges & Murray for Fall Test

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Comcast Cable of Maryland has tapped Georges & Murray Direct, Raleigh, NC, for the fall rollout of a direct mail campaign announcing digital television service in the Baltimore area.

According to Chrysanthe Georges, president of Georges & Murray, a direct marketing communications agency, the Baltimore division of Comcast can now offer about 315,000 metropolitan area households the option of traditional cable television service, digital cable service and Internet access.

However, she said, "Not everybody in the Comcast Cable universe is considered a prime prospect for digital cable right now, which is why the strategy for this campaign is particularly important -- because we're testing responses to multiple messages."

To communicate the new service and its features to local customers, Georges & Murray is preparing to test two separate direct mail creative executions, each comprised of a self-mailer, which will drop in October, followed by a postcard mailing in early November. By testing two approaches, Georges & Murray said Comcast would likely uncover important strategic information that it can also use in future marketing strategies.

Each execution is scheduled to be mailed to approximately 35,000 households with the creative supporting two messages: one is the value of digital service and the second outlines the control that digital service offers. In addition, the mailings will test responses to two different customer offers. One option gives subscribers their choice of three HBO videos plus free installation; the other offer provides free installation plus one of Comcast's premium movie channels through the end of the year at a reduced rate.

Georges said the agency has to communicate the value of the service as well as the convenience and control it gives consumers over their programming. "We are also trying to address the [cost issue]. There is this misperception in general that digital is expensive," she said.

The cost to upgrade to digital television service in the Baltimore area is currently $9.95 -- a price point that is fairly competitive with digital service pricing in other areas of the country. And Georges noted that new set-top box technology from companies like General Instruments and Pioneer make such service possible in more geographic areas each year.

A number of features come with Comcast's digital service in Baltimore, including on-screen programming information, 40 commercial-free digital stereo music channels, closed captioning and enhanced pay-per-view options.

Georges said the agency hopes to see a strong initial response from the Comcast Cable mailings. If we could get a 3 percent response, we would be very happy... but you have to remember there is very little history with this service."

Georges & Murray's other clients include GTE Wireless, Carolina Power Light, Merck-Medoc, AAA Carolinas and Rex Healthcare.

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