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Reader’s Digest Association outsources direct mail to Williams Lea

Reader’s Digest Association has tapped Williams Lea for outsourced print procurement and marketing services.

The exclusive, multiyear partnership puts Williams Lea in charge of promotional printing operations for RDA’s direct mail arm. Williams Lea will run RDA operations in the US and Canada, as well as 19 other countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Latin America.

“Direct mail is our biggest means of revenue generation, and the scale globally is such that this can make a very big difference for us,” said William Adler, VP of corporate communications for RDA. “It’s really a scale play for us with the fact that Williams Lea is capable of putting people into our shop wherever we are all over the world.”

Al Perruzza, SVP global operations and business redesign at RDA, added that the partnership will not change the company’s direct marketing strategies. Rather, it will provide flexibility for growth and development in a number of areas.

“It will allow us to take advantage of the best of the supply chain,” Perruzza explained. “So that is a nice way to leverage a portion of our spend base in an area that will allow flexibility for growth in various markets and in new markets. We can take savings that are relatively substantial that will allow a lot of opportunities to do the kinds of things we want to do to grow the business.”

The partnership with Williams Lea is part of a larger RDA business strategy put into play by CEO Mary Berner. When RDA was taken private by Ripplewood Holdings LLC last March, Berner came in as CEO and reorganized the company in terms of consumer affinity interest. She also instituted performance-based management and has started process transformation to increase financial flexibility for RDA.

As the world’s largest global publisher and direct marketer, RDA’s direct mail business covers a managed cost base of more than $1 billion. RDA hopes that partnering with Williams Lea will help the company improve business processes and reduce costs. It predicts savings of $130 million in the first three years.

100 RDA employees will be transferred to Williams Lea when the partnership goes into effect. Full implementation should be completed by March 2008, with six of the 19 locations slated to be up and running this month.

Of the move to 19 worldwide locations, Perruzza said, “It’s a global marketplace, and you want to be able to take advantage of it, want to be able to leverage scale. It allows us to move quickly when we see advantages in new markets all along the globe. It also allows better pricing, more availability to best practices and acceleration to market.”

Williams Lea, a BPO organization, employs more than 10,000 staff worldwide. The company works with businesses in financial services, legal, automotive, energy and other sectors.

Reader’s Digest Association, located near Pleasantville, NY, publishes books, magazines, music collections and video. The company publishes 79 magazines in more than 70 countries, including 51 editions of flagship title Reader’s Digest.

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