Language technology may improve direct mail readability

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Direct Group has entered into an exclusive agreement with Language Technologies Inc. for the use of its ReadSmart software, which formats text in an effort to make it easier to read direct mail pieces.

Tucson, AZ-based LTI said its ReadSmart software is designed to improve reader comprehension and enjoyment by analyzing and manipulating sentences, breaking them into smaller segments of meaning on a printed page or computer screen.

"We believe ReadSmart holds great promise to increase readership and response and improve overall ROI for a wide variety of direct marketing campaigns," said Don McKenzie, president/CEO of Direct Group. "It's all about helping improve the understanding, enjoyment and persuasiveness of the printed materials."

Pennington, NJ-based Direct Group provides a full suite of direct marketing services - from prepress, print and personalization through letter shop, commingling and mail to telemarketing, response and fulfillment - via partnerships with customers throughout the United States. SV Investment Partners, formerly known as Schroder Ventures US, is a New York-based private equity investment firm and is the equity partner of Direct Group.

ReadSmart automatically formats text through manipulation of spaces and the placement of phrases so that the printed page resembles the rhythm of normal speech, thus making the text easier to read without changing any words, fonts, grammar or punctuation. The software can also customize formatting depending on certain demographics of intended readers, further increasing the appeal and impact of copy.

"The technology also affords us the ability to mate the formatting process to both our forms and personalized printing," Mr. McKenzie said. "This applies to all forms of publication and text."

Mr. McKenzie said that Direct Group learned about LTI from its work with HintonHill, a direct marketing management and consulting company that it acquired in January.

Direct Group said testing has delivered results that suggest the technology can deliver benefits to direct marketers.

For example, it said that half of the direct mail pieces of a well-known national nonprofit organization's 160,000-person fundraising campaign were formatted using ReadSmart. Results showed that the ReadSmart pieces produced 54 percent more net revenue, 38 percent larger than average contributions and 11 percent more first-time respondents than regularly formatted direct mail.

In addition, a major consumer magazine's direct mail sweepstakes offer using the ReadSmart technology was rated by readers as 39 percent more convincing than the same offer without the use of ReadSmart.

College students in a computer course earned 69 percent more honors grades and experienced 40 percent fewer failures with ReadSmart-formatted textbooks than with standard textbooks, it is claimed.

"We have signed an exclusive agreement for long-term, for the entire direct marketing industry, and for all formats around direct marketing - direct mail, catalog, as well as e-communication such as e-mail, online messaging and online newsletters," Mr. McKenzie said.

He said no pricing strategy has been set, but that the technology "could be used by both big and small companies. Basically, anyone that wants to have an improved communications strategy."

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