*General Electric Forms Direct Response Unit

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ORLANDO -- General Electric Warranty Management yesterday formalized its direct marketing services into a separate operating unit that will leverage a 30-million name consumer database and the corporate giant's economies of scale to attract clients.

GE Direct Response Group, New Albany, IN, was formed at the start of the year and will offer complete direct mail, telemarketing, printing and graphic services to consumer marketers. GE Warranty Management sends more than 50 million mail pieces and handles more than one million outbound and five million inbound calls per year.

The unit has made its GE Direct Response file of buyers of GE appliances, warranties and housing association affiliates, which includes 5 million last-12-month buyers, available for list rental. Eighty-five percent of the file is known to be mail-order responsive and 68 percent are mail-order buyers. GE will manage the file in-house but expects to hire an outside manager by the end of the year. It has signed an agreement with Acxiom Corp. to provide database services and supply InfoBase demographic enhancements to the file.

The GE @ Home cooperative mailing program was launched last month to 2 million households with nine more mailings of 2 million to 10 million pieces planned for 1999. The mailings will be dropped to five geographic zones of 2 million pieces each and participants can specify in which zones they want to be included. If an envelope does not garner enough participants, it will not mail, said Kevin Hannan, GE Direct Response business development manager.

Participants in the co-op include First USA, America Online, Starbucks, Sprint/Earthlink and Sears.

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