Things Remembered Tries Online Partner Giveaway

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Personalized gift retailer Things Remembered is testing an online sweepstakes that features a merchandiser's products as prizes, a campaign it expects to give exposure to its partners and expand its e-mail database.

The first sweepstakes began this week involving clock and watchmaker Bulova, one of Things Remembered's longtime marketing partners and one of its best online performers. Visitors to Things click on a link that opens a pop-up window offering to register them for the sweepstakes after they give their name, address and e-mail and optionally fill out a five-question survey of their buying habits.

Things Remembered set no goals for how many e-mail addresses it hopes to collect, but expects the sweepstakes to attract attention to its e-commerce site through the holidays. The sweepstakes ends Dec. 5, and prizes will be awarded around Christmas. If this first effort goes well, Things Remembered will run more sweepstakes, each tied to a single partner's products.

"It creates some excitement," said Dennis Benvenuto, vice president of direct channels for Things Remembered, Highland Heights, OH. "It's also a value offer for our customers."

The company hopes that, in addition to attracting new leads for its database and new visitors to its Web site, the sweepstakes encourages its partners to participate in more promotional efforts. The sweepstakes can promote the partners' brands in Things Remembered's Web site, catalogs and in its retail stores, Benvenuto said.

To manage the sweepstakes, Things Remembered hired promotion production firm Seaward Corp., West Orange, NJ. Seaward will host the sweepstakes pop-up on its servers and ensure that the campaign complies with the myriad state laws governing sweepstakes.

For example, mail-in entries are permitted, and the sweepstakes is invalid in Puerto Rico, where laws requiring sweepstakes to be offered in both English and Spanish make running them more complicated.

Many Internet sweepstakes marketers ignore the rules, willfully or out of ignorance, said Stan Konwiser, president of Seaward Corp. However, with regulators on the state and federal levels showing more interest in fraud, such campaigns will be subject to more legal action in the future.

That sweepstakes done online are cheap and easy to run compared with broadcast, direct mail and other channels lends them a certain Wild West atmosphere.

"It's wild and wooly," Konwiser said of the online sweepstakes environment. "People are going out there and doing it because they can do it themselves."

One unique thing about this sweepstakes is that the company is using products it has in stock as prizes, Konwiser said. Usually, the costliest part of a sweepstakes campaign is the prize, which typically is a trip or some other item not necessarily related to the business being marketed.

"It lowers their costs," he said. "They're buying it at volume."

There are four levels of prizes, with one prize in each of the first three levels and eight in the fourth. The total value of the prizes is $600.

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