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ASPCA Wants to Convey Its Message Better

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York plans to replace its successful 3-year-old “Astro” acquisition package with one that better reflects its day-to-day activities.

The package features a letter with a photograph of an emaciated dog, Astro, who was tied to a stake and left to die. The letter is a two-page fold-over that explains how the organization fights cruelty to animals.

The piece, which was produced by O'Brien, McConnell & Pearson, Washington, also contains a return form with suggested donations of $20, $25, $50, $100 and $500 and a space for other donations, as well as a prepaid envelope. It has two versions: one with a membership card and one with address labels.

The piece has a 2.7 percent response rate, an average gift of $17.80 and a cost of $377 per 1,000. It always breaks even and sometimes makes money. But the ASPCA is looking to replace the package, said Jo Sullivan, director of direct marketing and Internet relations, because it concentrates too much on the plight of the animal and not enough on what the ASPCA does.

Sullivan tested one package that featured the ASPCA's partnership with petfinder.org, an online adoption service, and another that focuses on the organization's work to find homes for abused animals and its lobbying for legislation that makes animal abuse a punishable crime. The first worked for special appeals but not for acquisition. As acquisition packages, neither had return rates that came close to the Astro package.

In April, Sullivan will test a more updated story featuring a photograph of a happy, healthy puppy, “an end and not a beginning photo,” Sullivan said. This piece will focus more on how the animal has been helped by the ASPCA than on how it was abused by previous owners.

Until the ASPCA can replace the Astro package, however, the nonprofit will continue dropping 4.5 million of the packages four times a year.

The ASPCA rents and exchanges lists with other animal welfare organizations through MSGi Direct.

“These people are animal people, and they respond to animal stories,” Sullivan said.

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