Agency Sees Black History Month as DM Opportunity

Targeted Advertising Group Direct will use a direct mail campaign targeting 1 million black women in an attempt to debunk some commonly held beliefs about African-Americans' response to direct marketing.

The company's debut mailing will drop in February to coincide with Black History Month. It will go to the prime shopping demographic, which TAG Direct identifies as women ages 18 to 49.

To tap into the African-American consumer market, TAG is looking to assemble a group of 20 advertisers it can work with to develop culturally relevant offers that will appeal to blacks.

“We're trying to defeat the notion that blacks do not respond to direct mail,” said Marla Currie, president of TAG Direct, Woodcliff Lake, NJ.

Traditionally, the direct mail offers black consumers receive have been homogenous and poorly targeted, Currie said. This led to poor response and conversion rates.

Direct mail in African-American markets is scarce. Black households receive about 80 percent less direct mail than Anglo households, Currie said.

None of the 75 advertisers TAG sent its media kit to have been signed yet, though negotiations have begun. TAG is hoping to sign national advertisers and retailers of anything from packaged goods to fast foods.

Advertisers will get one 5-inch-by-8-inch piece of heavy-stock paper to convey their offers. Inserts will be printed in four colors, and advertisers will pay $39,350. The cost and circulation were set to compete with ad venues like Essence magazine, Currie said.

The mailer will go out to the top 20 black markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta. TAG is encouraging advertisers to include cultural cues and coupons with extended expiration dates on one side and time-withstanding bonuses like recipes, calendars or information relevant to Black History Month on the other.

“This will extend the longevity and relevance of what advertisers offer,” Currie said.

TAG worked with a list company, which Currie would not name, that uses a proprietary name-screening technique to target ethnic groups.

After weeding out unlikely African-American last names “like Suarez and Greenberg,” Currie said, the list company went back to its screened database to include likely African-American names “like Keisha” to build a list of women that would likely represent black households.

“We have a high degree of certainty that everyone who receives the package will be African-American,” she said.

Twenty advertiser inserts and two pages from TAG Direct will go inside the 6-inch-by-9-inch package, which will weigh 2.7 ounces and have the words “Black History Month Values” printed across the front.

Currie said women will relate to TAG's themed character, a savvy consumer named “Mamie Price,” who will narrate the introduction. TAG's creatives are still fine-tuning Mamie's image, which goes out on company documents and will be printed on advertiser inserts and coupons.

When recipients read the message on the envelope, “they will feel that it was developed especially for them. They will open it because they never get direct mail,” Currie said.

TAG will use a questionnaire to track responses and offer a cruise vacation package as an incentive. Respondents will be entered into the cruise sweepstakes, added to TAG's database and receive another mailing next September, Currie said.

TAG hopes to build a detailed database, Currie said.

“The whole area of database marketing is totally unexplored among African-American consumers. Our goal is to be the No. 1 database marketing company for African-Americans,” she said.

Regardless of how many responses there are to the cruise offer, the September 2001 drop will go out to about 1 million prospects.

“We need to keep this up to a million in order to stay competitive with magazines so we appeal to advertisers,” Currie said.

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