Magazine Publishers Still Cashing In On Vouchers, Says Time Inc. Exec

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WASHINGTON - The voucher continues to be the biggest trend in circulation.

So said John Tighe, vice president for Time Inc. consumer marketing promotions and operations, during a session at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington's Bridge conference.

"The voucher is the workhorse of the circulation industry," Mr. Tighe said.

He gave tips on how to create the highest response from the timeless direct mail pieces, including a voucher containing a magazine's offer for subscription, with benefits and the order form.

Time Inc. has changed its voucher to a 6 by 11 inches format, which has allowed the publisher to create more space, produce a cleaner look and experiment with different colors.

Mr. Tighe said that keeping the respondent surprised also increases response rates and that adding personalization makes the package feel less like a bill. Time Inc. had a 64 percent increase in sales when offers included a free item.

"Free things still rule among people," Mr. Tighe said. "All you need is to drop something in the package such as a magnet or a greeting card and people will feel more loved."

Another key aspect to the voucher is marketing the brand. Research has shown that picking the key emotional benefit and making it real has produced a large interest in women's lifestyle publications.

An example that People magazine used was marketing the publication as a bubble bath companion. The package even included a do-not-disturb hanger for the bathroom door.

Time Inc. has also begun offering alumni packages at lower yearly rates to subscribers who have been with the publication for several years.

"Finding the right partner for your brand is also key," Mr. Tighe said. "We have used Best Buy and Books-A-Million bookstores and have seen great results with trial-based offers."

When it comes to online, direct marketing tactics are still instilled at Time Inc.

Subscription offer pages show price comparison charts and are kept to simple bars. The company uses targeted e-mail campaigns to expired subscribers, too.

Mr. Tighe said that brand retention helps in offers.

"If the offer feels like the magazine with familiar color pallets, people will feel more comfortable and happy to subscribe," he said.

Mr. Tighe doesn't see circulation marketers diverging from vouchers in the future.

"I don't know if we will ever beat the voucher," he said. "We have almost taught people to expect it, so we might as well make them special for people."

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