Instant-Win Game Draws Columbia House Members Online

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The Columbia House Co., a club-based direct marketer of DVD and music titles, is running an interactive instant-win promotion to increase frequency and volume of purchases from its members.


Called "The Joy of Giving," the promotion uses decoder game pieces mailed to members of Columbia House's DVD Club. Recipients are asked to visit www.columbiahouse.com and hold up the decoder to the screen to see whether they won a prize.


"They're tying into a holiday theme, where in addition to having members buying for themselves, we're looking to get them to buy for friends," said Josh Glantz, New York office vice president and managing director of ePrize, the interactive agency that created the promotion.


Decoders were included in catalogs and 4.6 million mail teasers sent starting Oct. 3. A total of 1.7 million e-mails sent twice weekly announcing new releases and weekly specials also notified members about the online promotion.


DVD Club members can visit columbiahouse.com daily to play the game until the end of the year. The decoder, which is peeled off the mail piece, filters out light from the site. The winning match is hidden behind a treatment online. Members who do not have a game piece can click on one at columbiahouse.com created in Flash. They can drag the piece across the screen to test their luck.


Columbia House, New York, is giving away 10 $10,000 cash prizes. There are 100 instant-win prizes of $1,000 cash and 15,000 instant-win DVD prizes.


DVD Club members pick five DVDs for 49 cents each with free shipping. They must buy five more movies in the next two years at regular club prices, starting at $19.95 plus shipping and processing. Or they can take a sixth movie immediately after joining for $14.95 with free shipping and buy only four more in the next two years. They can cancel anytime.


Members get a free DVD Club magazine every four weeks as well as some Special Selection mailings.


Columbia House's interactive promotion is similar to one ePrize created recently for J.C. Penney Co. Inc. The Plano, TX-based retailer wanted to communicate with people who already were buying from it offline. Game pieces went to J.C. Penney catalog customers in boxes containing products ordered. Another game piece was sent in J.C. Penney credit card billing statements.


EPrize, Farmington Hills, MI, has run 1,000 interactive promotions -- loyalty programs, collect and win, instant win and trivia games -- in the past five years. Clients include BJ's Wholesale Club, Northwest Airlines, Gap Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and Coca-Cola Co.


Glantz said such promotions aim to increase repeat visits and purchases at the retailer's site, particularly in Columbia House's case. It is also a response to competition from retailers such as Amazon, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Best Buy Co., all aggressive sellers of CDs and DVDs.


Founded in 1955, Columbia House sells DVDs, videos and music home entertainment products. It stocks 5,000 DVD and 9,000 music titles. Owned by investment bank Blackstone Group, Columbia House has nearly 8.5 million offline and online club members in the United States and Canada.


"They've never done anything like this before," Glantz said of Columbia House. "They're looking for new ways to engage their customers and to build frequency. They know that people who are engaged in their club online buy more than those who are only engaged in their club offline.


"They expect to increase the number of members who have opted in to receive weekly e-mail blasts. And they expect to increase the frequency that their members are going to their DVD Club Web site, and they're expecting to increase sales."


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