Childreach Rides Stardom With DVD Inserts in 'About Schmidt'

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A children's charity featured in the Jack Nicholson film "About Schmidt" hopes to ride its fame a little further with an insert packaged in the DVD release of the movie.


Childreach, a charity for needy children in developing countries, was featured in the comedy "About Schmidt" last year. In the movie, Nicholson played a man who sponsors a boy in Tanzania through Childreach. The charity ran a 500,000-piece direct mail test in January and February in which 200,000 pieces highlighted the charity's involvement in the film.


Now, New Line Cinema, the production company behind "About Schmidt," is including the charity's inserts in 2.5 million DVD packages of the movie, which was released June 3. The VHS release of the film includes a Childreach commercial that appears after the credits.


The effort is the first time Childreach has used insert media in a direct marketing campaign. The move is part of the charity's transition away from dependence on television media, which has become too costly.


The inserts are a chance for Childreach to place its message as close to the movie as possible, said Amy McKenna Luz, managing director of marketing for Childreach, Warwick, RI.


Childreach originally wanted to pass out CD-ROMs bearing information about the charity at theaters where the movie was playing. But the costs proved prohibitive, Luz said. Also, New Line Cinema, desiring to avoid tainting the dark comedy theme of the film prior to the Golden Globe Awards, declined to get behind the idea.


"They didn't want the film to be 'candy for the soul' over the holiday," she said.


Childreach's "About Schmidt" marketing campaigns so far have brought less-than-spectacular results, Luz admitted. The initial test resulted in a 0.04 percent enrollment rate that, though beating the charity's standard rate of 0.02 percent, was below expectations.


Sponsoring a Childreach child costs $288 a year, roughly the equivalent price point of a major gift item, she said.


In April, Childreach dropped 800,000 mailers focused on the "About Schmidt" theme. Response rates matched those in the tests, and, all told, the movie-related mailers drew only 5,100 new enrollments.


Yet Childreach plans another "About Schmidt" mail drop in September. The mailers are now the control pieces for the charity's direct mail campaigns, replacing an old control with which Childreach had grown dissatisfied.


"We've been trying to kill our control for 10 years," Luz said. "It's really emotional. When you get emotional, you pull in people from a different demographic that may not stay as long."


Despite the sluggish results of the mail campaign, Luz said the charity's presence in the movie has been positive. Childreach is in contact with the manager of a rock music festival who heard about the charity from the movie and wants to help, while one couple in Los Angeles who already sponsored a child donated another $5,000 after seeing the movie.


For the DVD insert campaign, Luz is abstaining from making predictions about results. She called the campaign "a crap shoot -- a good crap shoot."


"This always has been a wild card for us," she said of involvement in the movie. "The big question was, are they going to remember our brand, are they going to be moved enough to go home and respond?"


CAPTION: Inserts are included in 2.5 million DVD copies of the movie.


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