Sina.com Seeks Advertisers, Delivers Awareness With Mail Campaign

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With its first-ever direct mail campaign, Sina.com, an Internet media company looking to connect Chinese communities worldwide, decided that designing a piece with a Chinese food takeout theme would be the best way to bring in new business.


Sina, Sunnyvale, CA, which gets 46 million page views per day and has 11 million registered members, is targeting two groups with its campaign and using two different pieces.


During the first two weeks of October, it mailed nearly 20,000 pieces targeting marketing executives and media buyers. Sina sees itself as the Chinese Yahoo and has four portals located in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States.


The goal of the business-to-business campaign, which cost less than $200,000, was twofold, according to Karen Brux, director of marketing at Sina. It wanted to bring in new advertisers for its portals while raising awareness among American companies of the benefits of marketing to Asian Americans online.


With results just starting to come in, the campaign already has produced a response rate of more than 1 percent. According to Brux, media buyers have been more responsive than marketing executives.


Sina used three lists for the campaign. The list of marketing executives came from lists of subscribers to The Industry Standard and Advertising Age. The list of media buyers was compiled from lists of subscribers to Media Week.


To reach marketing executives, the company believed it could use a fairly standard direct mail package: a 9-inch-by-12-inch envelope with a personalized letter and informational brochures inside. But for media buyers, Brux felt something more unusual was needed. So it sent Chinese food takeout boxes to them.


"Media buyers are a tougher sell than the marketing executives," she said. "They get a lot of different things coming across their desk every day, and their creative expectations are quite high. You have to stand out, or else your piece is going to get thrown out.


"The goal was to play off of something uniquely Chinese. But we didn't want to come off cheesy or tacky, and at the same time [we wanted to] make sure that we weren't going to do anything that would be offensive to anyone."


More than 11,500 marketing executives -- including advertising directors and vice presidents of business development at brick-and-mortar and dot-com companies -- received a bright yellow and red envelope containing a personalized letter, a "menu" of services and a pair of chopsticks. Brux described these firms as blue chip companies and major financial institutions.


The outside of the envelope has the word "urgent" in both English and Chinese printed on it. The phrase, "We Deliver Chinese ... online" is printed in English.


The cover letter first asks recipients, "Hungry for a new market to fatten your bottom line?" Then it goes on to describe what companies can gain from targeting the Chinese-American community and includes statistics regarding the number of page views and registered members that Sina has worldwide. The text of the letter varies depending on the industry in which the recipient works.


Included in the envelope is a pamphlet called The Sina.com Express Menu of Services. The headings on each of the pages include Appetizers: Food for Thought; Soup: A Piping Hot Market; and Meat Dishes: Beef Up Your Media Plan. This booklet contains additional details regarding the benefits of marketing to Asian Americans and how Sina can effectively help advertisers to reach them.


In the takeout box, which also is bright yellow and red, the contents are the same as those contained in the envelope. But the text of the cover letter and menu speaks to media buyers and what the benefits would be for their clients.


Brux said the 7,000 media buyers targeted with this portion of the campaign work for major advertising agencies.


Those who respond to either piece are automatically entered into the Deliver Me to Beijing sweepstakes. The grand prize is an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Beijing.


Recipients can respond by either calling a toll-free number, visiting www.sina.com or mailing back an order and entry form. People can request either a complimentary consultation "to-go," a complete list of the Sina menu of services or more information regarding the Chinese online community in North America, Hong Kong, Taiwan or China.


"Some of the people responding are asking only to be entered into the sweepstakes," Brux said, "while most others are asking for a complete menu of our services."


Sina worked with Wong Wong Boyack, San Francisco, a full-service direct marketing agency that provides multilingual and multicultural solutions.
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