Full Disclosure Brings More Sweeps Response, DM Expert Says

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NEW YORK -- An executive with American Express Publishing told a packed house at the monthly Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon meeting yesterday that offering full disclosure about its sweepstakes has been good for business.

"Full disclosure, no deceptive copy, works," said Mary Pizzarelli, vice president of consumer marketing, American Express Publishing, New York, who oversees efforts for Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, T&L Golf and Skyguide magazines.

Pizzarelli said that when the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act was implemented in early 2000, requiring sweepstakes marketers to follow strict regulations including full disclosure, American Express considered eliminating sweepstakes from its marketing programs.

"This was a big challenge," she said. "Sweepstakes work for a reason, and that's because they have a very high gross response and, from my experience, low pay."

However, Pizzarelli said American Express began testing sweepstakes that differed from the ones it normally uses. These had a much less promotional approach, offered straightforward copy and explained very clearly that no purchase was necessary.

"This has really helped our response rates," she said.

Pizzarelli also said American Express Publishing has been experimenting with other types of promotions that follow the rule, including online promotions, co-op promotions and a Winners Package, where the winner of one its promotions will be highlighted in ad copy.

Pizzarelli spoke on a panel called "Sweepstakes: What Works, What Doesn't & Why." Other speakers included Marla Altberg, president, Ventura Associates Inc., New York, a sales promotion agency with a specialty in prize promotions; and Sandy Clark, consultant, Marketing Solutions.

Altberg said sweepstakes promotions are not dead despite the recent legislation.

"Complying with the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act is not such a big deal," she said. "Most marketers were already complying with it when it was signed into law."

Altberg offered her top 10 sweepstakes promotion trends for 2002. Highlights included: Affinity sweepstakes, where prizes are closely tied to the product the marketer is trying to sell; "Fast 50" promotions, where prizes are awarded quickly to a targeted audience; survey sweepstakes, where prizes are awarded when a consumer completes a survey; partnership promotions, where companies can defray their costs of the survey by using a cross-promotional opportunity; and online promotions, which can include anything from frequent drawings to jumbo prizes to lotteries to games.

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