PRWeek Fake Magazine Snares Subs

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PRWeek magazine's most effective reactivation direct mail package is also by far its most expensive.

The latest installment of the 16-page, full-sized magazine replica dropped about two weeks ago to 3,000 to 4,000 people. Two similar 2001 drops garnered a 6 percent conversion rate, bringing about a $60 profit for each subscription, according to PRWeek.

Though orders have started coming in, it is reportedly too early to tell whether the January drop is on par with the 2001 efforts.

PRWeek sends the piece only to those whose subscriptions expired and to so-called credit suspends, people who selected the "bill me" option and then failed to pay.

"I mail out no more than 10,000 per year," said Denise Robbins, circulation director for PRWeek's parent firm, Haymarket Media Inc., New York.

The magazine replica is intended to dupe recipients into thinking it is the latest issue of PRWeek. Closer inspection of the cover, however, reveals that the "articles" are written in the gibberish commonly referred to as Greek in the publishing industry.

Then, starting with the inside front cover, each spread is blank except for a few words printed in 1-inch-high sans serif type. "We Weren't Kidding..." reads the opening spread, followed by " more PR Week..." on the second, and then "unless you subscribe...," on the third.

Finishing the sentence, the left page of the center spread contains the single word "now" with a bold red arrow pointing at two bound-in business reply inserts. One insert features a stacked headline with 2-inch-high letters that reads "Fill out the form," above the subscription card, while the other reads "Here's one for a friend."

Behind the inserts, the right side of the center spread says, "now mail it!"

The only variation in the piece is the offer on the BRCs, which vary by recipient.

The rest of the spreads read as follows:

• "Until you do, no more news..."

• "no more jobs, tips, trends or techniques"

• "- so turn back to the form & send it in now!"

The piece already existed when Robbins became circulation director in July 2000. The company had paid about $25,000 to produce 20,000 of them, not including postage and list rental, for a campaign that dropped before she arrived. But tracking data was lost when the subscriber file changed fulfillment houses, she said.

"I saw that they had spent the $25,000, but it was impossible to tell what type of response they had had to it," she said. "So for a long time I shelved it. I loved the idea, but I could not see a world in which this could make money."

Then at the end of 2000, PRWeek's printer called, asking what to do with 7,000 or 8,000 leftover pieces.

"I searched for a way to make them profitable, and we decided to gang up all the expires [people who had let the subscriptions run out] and credit suspends," Robbins said.

PR Week generally makes six attempts at getting the renewal before sending the "We Weren't Kidding" piece.

"It's usually three- to six-month post-expire," she said. "This is a last-ditch effort. ... The people who didn't renew for whatever reason respond better to this than they do to telemarketing, last-issue wraps or any of the four efforts we send them in the mail."

The piece, created inhouse, won the Circulation Direct Marketing Award for outstanding renewal campaign at the Folio show in October.

PRWeek claims a readership of 39,000. The publication launched in November 1998.

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