Co-op Mail Brings Satisfaction for Chicago Radio Station

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A Chicago radio station that abandoned its traditional solo direct mail program this year in favor of a cooperative program said it's pleased with the results.

WTMX, which plays adult contemporary music, has been advertising its on-air promotions on the backs of Money Mailer envelopes and on inserts in the co-op mailers, which usually contain about 30 coupons, mostly from local merchants. The mailers are distributed to about 1.2 million households in the Chicago area seven times per year.

As part of a trade to partially defray the cost of advertising in the Money Mailer co-op, the station has been promoting the mailer on the air heavily each time it is distributed.

"Because it is tied to our major contests, we want to promote it well [and] we want people to see the envelope," said Paul Webber, marketing director at the station known as "The Mix," located on the dial at 101.9 FM.

The station promoted its contests through solo direct mail and mass media such as television in prior years, Webber said. This year's experiment with cooperative direct mail has been so cost-effective, he said, that the station is negotiating to renew its contract with Money Mailer for another year.

"I was surprised that it's been as effective as it has been, because I was always against being in a co-op mailing," Webber said. "I think it's probably a little less effective than the solo mail -- I have to be honest about that -- but with the difference in costs that we're paying, we're still getting a significant bang for our buck."

Though terms of the deal were not disclosed, advertising in a Money Mailer co-op usually costs $375 to $450 per 10,000 households, said Bill Blackmon, vice president of franchise development at Money Mailer, Garden Grove, CA. Mailing solo postcards to the same number of households could cost up to 30 cents per household, or $3,000, he said.

A March survey found that 80,000 adults in the 25-to-54 age group remembered seeing the station's contests advertised in the Money Mailer co-op. In April, the recall total declined to about 45,000, but mailings in May and June rebuilt it to about 60,000, Webber said. Television advertising generates higher recall rates for the station's promotions but is more expensive, he said.

The station is not segmenting its co-op mailings, a process it usually undertakes in detail with its solo direct mail.

"Since we can cover 1.2 million households for maybe one-tenth of the cost, we've been doing that and then taking the rest of the money we would have used on direct mail and targeting at-work listening through businesses," Webber said.

Money Mailer franchisees in individual markets have partnered with radio stations before, including stations in Southern California and Salt Lake City, Blackmon said, but the Chicago station has been the most successful.

"The real issue for us in Chicago is that it is our demographic," Blackmon said, "because our target audience is 25 to 54 with above-average household income and primarily women. Pretty close to 60 percent-plus of envelopes are still opened by women."

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