In a Sea Change, Co-op Mailers Target Like Sharpshooters

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Seemingly without exception, co-op mailers are answering client demands for increased ad-dollar accountability by offering household targeting previously unheard of in the shared mass-mailer business.


Case in point: Beginning in March, Carol Wright, a division of Cox Direct, is debuting a new look and mailing to a new database of 25 million families with children ages 17 and younger.


Cox Direct, Largo, FL, created the database by pooling consumer information from 10 companies, including various retailers and list firms along with the three largest data compilers -- Metromail Corp., The Polk Co. and First Data Solutions, formerly First Data InfoSource/ Donnelley Marketing.


Households in the new Carol Wright database "are the families with more noses to wipe and more mouths to feed," said Peter Burgess, president of Cox Direct, which also owns Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems Inc. "They are the top echelon of spenders on all types of consumables."


Jennifer MacLean, vice president of marketing at Metromail, said co-op mailers are increasingly turning to multiple-source databases to meet client demands for more efficient targeting.


"There are two trends at work here," MacLean said. "One is that users of co-ops are pressuring co-op mailers for more productive reach. The other is that the marriage of information and technology is allowing for cost-effective versioning [different contents to different households] of co-ops."


As a result, where Carol Wright's mostly national advertisers once were limited to demographic and geographic selects, as of March they will be able to target these high-consumption households by family members' ages, computer and pet ownership, mail-order responsiveness and whether they are in frequent-shopper programs, Burgess said. Carol Wright's cost-per-thousand rate has not gone up because of the changes.


The households also are Spectra coded, a database modeling method that packaged-goods manufacturers use to select target audiences. Sometime in the next three months, Carol Wright will begin using some of its retail partners' frequent-shopper data to allow advertisers to select households in certain areas by product usage.


Also, Cox has slated another mailer for a spring launch called As They Grow, which is scheduled to drop quarterly to 750,000 households with infants ages 5 months to 18 months old. Last year, Cox launched Just Delivered, a 250,000-household monthly mailer targeting parents of newborns up to 4 months.


Another co-op company leading the targeting charge is Advo Inc., Windsor, CT. Advo has armed its 615 field sales representatives with laptop computers, and by early March will finish rolling out a program called Advo Targeting Zones. The zones are 16,500 clustered postal carrier routes of 3,500 households each on which Advo has demographic, psychographic and purchasing-behavior data.


Using the laptops, Advo reps can enter profiles -- income, age, household size, home owner vs. renter, etc. -- of likely prospects for the advertiser. The result is a list of targeting zones that meet the advertiser's criteria.


"We're trying to blend the precision of solo mail with the affordability of cooperative mail," said Robert "Kam" Kamerschen, CEO and chairman at Advo.


According to Stephen Webster, vice president of strategic business development, the cost of advertising in Advo has risen with the increased targeting capabilities generally from 1 to 3 percent.


But more precision lessens the amount of mail it takes to reach an advertiser's best prospects, so "although the cost per thousand goes up slightly, the cost per response is reduced," Webster said.


Increased targeting also has allowed Advo to snare clients not traditionally associated with co-ops, such as financial services marketers, telecommunications companies and automobile manufacturers, Kamerschen said. Advo sends its Mailbox Values to 60 million households each week.


In another example of a co-op marketing approach, Money Mailer, Garden Grove, CA, two months ago began offering its small- to medium-sized business clients in four test markets -- Denver, Dallas, Seattle and Long Island -- three targeting options in a program it calls New Movers, Shoppers and Loyal Customers.


Money Mailer clients wishing to reach new movers in their areas can reach groups of as few as 250 homes. Those wishing to reach shoppers can target what Money Mailer calls "Smart Zones," similar to the Advo Targeting Zones, of 10,000 homes each.


"Our clients are sharing the cost [of direct mail] with other advertisers, but in a very pinpointed and targeted way," said Archie Currin, vice president of field sales at Money Mailer.


The loyal customer option is a solo mailer service Money Mailer offers using the clients' customer information.


Money Mailer, which mails to 15 million households six to eight times a year, has decided to roll the program out nationally on a schedule that had yet to be determined, Currin said.
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