Update: Fannie Mae Mailing Focuses on Shady Lenders

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The Fannie Mae Foundation dropped more than 2.5 million mail pieces targeting families with low to moderate incomes last week as part of its annual spring advertising campaign.


The mailings are part of its Opening Doors Campaign, which started in 1993. A direct mail component began in 1995. This is the first mailing, however, to focus on assisting potential home buyers in identifying disreputable or predatory lending techniques.


"With this mailing, we are outlining steps that will help them to avoid becoming a victim of predatory lenders," said Stacey Davis, president/CEO of the Fannie Mae Foundation. "We are providing them with free guides that will help them to see the warning signs."


Davis would not disclose the cost of the direct mail campaign, which is part of a larger integrated effort that will include TV ads.


The piece is a 13-page booklet titled "Borrowing Basics: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You."


Topics covered include a list of warning signs, a glossary of loan terms, and information on the concepts of taking out a loan and interest payments. The booklet lists a toll-free number and a URL where recipients can follow up for more information. The mailing also comes with a smaller brochure that includes a business reply card.


Davis said response rates for the foundation's direct mail campaigns are 2 percent to 3 percent.


Fannie Mae developed versions in Spanish and English. The content was identical for each version. About 1.5 million of the mailings were the English version while the remainder were in Spanish. Names used in the mailing were purchased from a list broker. The foundation used one list for the English-speaking audience and numerous lists for the Spanish-speaking audience.


Of the 1.5 million mailings in English, 1 million were sent to black families.


It worked with direct mail agency MDB Communications, Washington, and RBH Direct, Austin, TX, a Spanish advertising agency, to design the creative for the direct mail campaign.


The campaign is running in conjunction with TV ads that will appear on national cable and broadcast television, along with a 30-minute educational program on borrowing basics to be aired on Black Entertainment Television. That program will run every Sunday through June 17.


Spanish advertising will run on Latin cable stations such as Univision and Telemundo.


Each ad will provide the toll-free number, which consumers can call for more information or to order each free guide. GSD&M, an advertising agency based in Austin, worked on the TV spots.


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