Wegener to Launch Infoservice in France

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UTRECHT, The Netherlands -- Wegener Direct plans to drop its infoservice coupon booklets to 1.6 million French households in January and roll out the program over the year to 6 million households by September.


The booklet contains almost 60 ads from an array of companies that include France Loisir, a Bertelsmann-owned book club; Wellemse, a mail-order seller of flowers and bulbs; and Mantis, a garden machine merchant. France's La Poste will handle distribution of the unaddressed drop.


"We are targeting households that are representative of the markets we are trying to reach," said managing director Ger van Schaik.


Selection of households was along geographic lines, he said. "Mail-order behavior is important to us; so is family status, with children, and location -- rural or urban. Generally, we prefer the suburbs or semirural areas," he said.


France, he said, had been part of the company's overall expansion strategy in Europe and had been targeted for 2001.


But he conceded that in some ways France was different from the rest of Europe.


"It is a different and separate country," he said. "You can talk to advertisers who see Europe as one market and you can talk to them about one ad from Sweden, Switzerland and Germany. But France is always something special and not part of any international network. Take a company like Willemse. They are located all over Europe and have one manager in charge, except for France.


"They have somebody else who is in charge of France only. And they are not alone, because you have to treat France differently from the rest of Europe."


The French booklet has 16 pages with an introductory letter, a cover and a central reply card.


Wegener set up its operations in Lille, the center of France's DM industry and a town close to the Belgian border. The Belgian and French units will work together, although the French book will have different content.


The Dutch company became a pan-European DM leader in the '90s with operations in a dozen countries ranging from list management to a host of other DM services.


The infoservice started in the Netherlands in 1981 by sending coupon booklets to households in which various companies could advertise and offer their services to recipients. It expanded to Belgium and the UK in 1992 and to Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic in 1997.


It is now mailed out in Sweden, Denmark and Hungary and will begin in Norway as well as in France in January.


The Hungarian launch took place earlier this year following the acquisition two years ago of a small Hungarian DM company. "We used them to introduce the information service concept in that country," he said.


"We always try to go into a new market with a combination of a local company and international clients. Hungary is doing very well. It is a very responsive market."


For now, Wegener has no plans to expand the booklet concept into southern Europe -- Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. "We have so many other things to do that we have put a hold on that one."
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