DMers Go Back to School With Imagitas Cooperative Program

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Direct marketers have a new way to reach the potentially lucrative market of parents of high school students, thanks to a cooperative mailing program launched last week by Imagitas, a government solutions company, and the U.S. Department of Education.


The program, the Federal Student Financial Aid Planner, was mailed to 7.1 million U.S. households with high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. According to Imagitas and the Department of Education, this is the largest dissemination ever of financial aid information to families.


Imagitas said this number includes nearly every household in the country with children in high school. The majority of college students today receive some kind of financial aid, Imagitas said.


The mailing, timed to coincide with the back-to-school season, includes a one-page pamphlet with information on the financial aid process, information about the free application for federal student aid, a business reply card for additional free Department of Education information and relevant offers from companies.


Imagitas said it received names and addresses of the households for the program from four list sources, two of which were commercially available and two of which were property list sources. Further details were unavailable.


The advertisers have no access to private consumer information such as name and address data.


"Neither we nor any of our advertising partners retain any information about the names and addresses in this program or have access to this information," said Jason Robart, general manager of Imagitas.


Imagitas finds relevant private-sector partners, such as educational companies and companies that sell school supplies or wireless services, to underwrite the cost of the financial aid planners in exchange for inclusion of their offers and advertising in the packages. The ads are usually redeemable coupons included in the envelopes.


"The Federal Student Financial Aid Planner allows government to harness the resources of private industry to execute a public awareness campaign that would not ordinarily have been fiscally possible and allows advertisers an avenue that has never before been available," Robart said. "The Department of Education did not have the ability to proactively reach the parents of high school students directly.


"The department can send information out through guidance counselors, which then goes through the students and hopefully makes it home to parents," he said. "But we know that that is not always the most effective communication vehicle for getting vital information out."


Funding was difficult for the Education Department as well, he said.


Twenty national and regional advertisers have signed up for the program, including Questia, OfficeMax, Liberty Mutual, Keystone Class Rings, Sylvan Learning Centers and Collegeboard.com.


In selecting these companies, Robart said, "we looked at advertising categories that were relevant and appropriate to parents of high school students and that were education-focused. ... As we identified what those categories were and did some preliminary testing with parents, we then went through our standard fair solicitation process."


Imagitas would not offer specifics on how much the program cost advertisers but said it is priced competitively with similar direct marketing programs.


Robart said future public-private collaborations are being planned to increase college enrollment nationwide, provide efficient modes of communication for the federal government and offer advertisers unique and effective vehicles to reach consumers.


Earlier this year, the company launched the DMV Enhanced Registration Renewal program, which lets mailers target drivers with offers as they renew their auto registrations with state departments of motor vehicles. Several state agencies have signed on.


These programs are based on a business model that Imagitas established with the U.S. Postal Service that has saved the USPS more than $50 million. Eight years ago, Imagitas created the Mover's Guide, a change-of-address package that includes easy-to-follow forms and move-related advertising. It reaches the 41 million people who move in the United States every year. Since 1993, more than 500 million Mover's Guides have been used by customers, including more than 80 million in 2000.


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