Postcard Mailer Targets Upscale New Yorkers

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Circa NYC Direct, a booklet of detachable postcard ads, is testing the acceptance, by the six-figure income set, of the cooperative mail model, and early results suggest that even the rich can be enticed by a coupon.


A test mailing of the Circa booklet dropped last month to 25,000 prospects in Manhattan with household incomes greater than $100,000. The booklet consists of color postcards akin to those found on Max racks in bars and clubs. Nineteen advertisers participated in the test, and a full complement of 33 is projected for the first full-scale quarterly mailing to 100,000 households in June.


Circa is building its target audience through a combination of demographics from compiled lists and proprietary information obtained from the work of two of the company's founders in catalog operations.


"We get calls asking why is my neighbor getting this and I'm not," said Circa president Ken Shapiro, an entrepreneur who previously handled sales and marketing for the startup Full Circle Recyclers. "We really qualify who we are mailing to."


Advertisers are being recruited from every product category with potential appeal to an upscale consumer, including travel, fashion, beauty, gift catalogs, e-commerce and ticket sites and cultural institutions. Two thirds of the ads in the test mailing contained a coupon or other response mechanism while the remainder were used to build awareness.


Sany Marques, owner of Italian closet and furniture designer Format, New York, said Circa's colorful booklet format gives the consumer a reason to look inside and has a much greater shelf life than the ads he places in architecture and design magazines.


"The magazine gives me status, this gives me a target customer, said Marques, who is offering free interior design consultation and 10 percent of an initial purchase. "If you present your message right you will get a response.''


Circa is being positioned as a step up in quality and selectivity from the saturation coupon mailers.


"We felt the middle market was well covered but there is an opportunity to cover niche markets," Shapiro said.


Circa uses a book format and business reply card stock for the postcards, which makes the postcards more suitable for direct response than coupon paper. Circa also places a cap on participants to ensure that each advertiser gets proper exposure.


Murray Shapiro, owner of luxury pharmacy and gift store Zitomer, New York, conducts coupon mailings to his own database but had never participated in a cooperative effort until Circa came along. The test mailing reached a lot of regular customers and enabled Zitomer to pick up some new ones, according to Shapiro.


"I finally saw a Val-Pak I approved," he said. "Other coupon mailers are not up to my standards, they do not make elegant presentation."


Potential applications for Circa include separate booklets that appeal to specific product and ethnic niches. The booklet will be limited to Manhattan distribution this year and there are tentative plans to expand to the affluent New York suburbs and major East Coast cities in 2000.
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