Mailers Piggyback Onto DMV Renewals

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Marketers are hitching a ride with state departments of motor vehicles under a new cooperative program introduced by Imagitas, a government solutions company, that allows mailers to target drivers with offers as they renew their automobile registrations.


Three state agencies have already signed up for the DMV Enhanced Registration Renewal program. Mailings begin next week in Minnesota, which has recruited 15 local, regional and national advertisers. DMVs in Wisconsin and Florida will debut similar programs in the fall.


Here's how the program works: Imagitas, Waltham, MA, redesigns a state's registration renewal package to include an easier-to-use renewal form and an information guide detailing the most efficient ways to renew such as online, by telephone or by mail. Imagitas then finds relevant private-sector partners -- such as auto insurance companies, car dealerships and gasoline or oil companies -- to underwrite the cost of the renewal process in exchange for inclusion of their offers and advertising in the packages. The ads are usually redeemable coupons included inside the envelopes.


The advertisers have no access to drivers' private consumer information such as name and address data because the program complies with the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994. The law, which was updated last year, says states must require drivers to give specific permission before their personal data is released for any direct marketing purpose.


Unlike the original DPPA, the updated version says states must implement provisions allowing consumers to opt in to state programs that market their personal information, a change from the previous opt-out provision. Most states have chosen not to run an opt-in program because of the costs associated with establishing such a system statewide.


"We are basically riding along with states' DMV mailings and providing our advertising, a bulletin and creative into that process," said Pobin Ryan, vice president of new public service enterprises at Imagitas. "At no time is Imagitas or our private partners in possession of private information."


According to Imagitas, the program offers an opportunity for marketers to reach every automobile owner and driver in states that require vehicle owners to renew their registration each year. In addition, the car-related ads arrive when automobiles are at the top of consumers' minds. The program also offers category exclusivity -- only one product or service in a specific category can be included in each package.


"Since advertisers in the very broad automotive market are looking for ways to cut through the clutter of competitive marketing, we can provide category exclusivity in a way that allows them to reach the market that they need to reach," Ryan said.


In addition, the registration renewal program saves hundreds of thousands of dollars for the DMVs because the private companies that advertise in the mailings underwrite it.


Next week, automobile owners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area will start receiving mailings from the Minnesota DMV that include a coupon for services from Valvoline Instant Oil Change Service Centers. About 2 million people are due for renewal, and the mailings will be sent on a month-to-month basis.


"The program offers an opportunity to get our literature into the hands of people who have to open up these mailings because they need the information contained in them," said Joni Bloom, regional marketing manager at Valvoline Instant Oil Change. "It is much different from a typical direct mail piece that may or may not be opened."


Bloom would not offer any specifics on how much the program is costing Valvoline but said it is in line with the company's other direct marketing programs, which include traditional postcard mailings.


While Bloom didn't use data from state DMVs for Valvoline's direct marketing programs, she had planned to start using the data until last year's law took effect. Valvoline also has added a tracking element to the coupons so the company will know whether the mailer is generating leads.


The DMV Enhanced Registration Renewal program is based on a business model that Imagitas established with the U.S. Postal Service that has saved the postal service more than $50 million. Eight years ago, Imagitas created the Mover's Guide, which is 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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