Smithsonian Dangles Sweepstakes to Draw Advertisers' Attention

The Smithsonian Magazine is targeting time-constrained advertiser and advertising agency executives nationwide with a direct mail campaign pushing the virtues of running ads in its monthly publication.

Handled by Bear Brook Design Inc., Chester, NY, the campaign began a week ahead of today's introduction of a sweepstakes online called “The Most Interesting Person You Know.” The idea is to get advertiser and agency executives to know Smithsonian's readers better.

“Because agencies are inundated with so much stuff, we've found that if you make it worth their while and incentivize them with sweepstakes, they tend to pay more attention,” said Diane Lowman, New York-based marketing director of Smithsonian Magazine.

Through November, the publisher will drop monthly a four-fold postcard to 4,400 executives on a house-compiled list of marketing executives at advertisers and media buyers and planners at agencies. Online postcards will support, sent to those who register to participate in the sweepstakes.

A wrap on Smithsonian copies sent to the list through November urges them to call the associate publisher. The postcard shares the same call to action. The wrap concept is new to the publisher, which typically uses mail, e-mail and online marketing, premiums, print and sweepstakes to reach agency and advertiser prospects.

As part of the secondary call to action, recipients are asked to log onto the site at Live through Sept. 10, the site asks trivia questions about Smithsonian's readers to prove how relevant they are to the ad community.

The postcards highlight statistics relating to Smithsonian's readers. For example, 4.3 million readers enrolled in frequent-flier programs and 327,000 bought digital cameras last year. The same readership bought 582,993 new vehicles in the past 12 months.

To sustain interest, the publisher on Fridays will randomly select a trivia player who logged onto the site for five consecutive days for prizes like an MP3 player, digital camera, binoculars or telescope.

Those who log onto the site for 10 consecutive days get a travel clock. The grand prize is a trip either to Alaska, Peru, South Africa, France or the British Virgin Islands.

Even as this effort has begun, Smithsonian continues its “One of the Most Interesting People We Know” series. Advertisers are invited to hear personal anecdotes from interesting achievers.

On May 11, for instance, the magazine honors jazz legend Isaac Hayes. Past guests included Harry Benson, who photographed Muhammed Ali and the Beatles, and Daniel Libeskind, architect of the buildings to replace the World Trade Center in New York.

Founded 34 years ago, Smithsonian Magazine is owned by the Smithsonian Institution. The title's monthly circulation is 2 million, reaching subscribers interested in history, science, travel and the arts.

A four-color full-page ad in Smithsonian costs $75,000 to $100,000, depending on the deal. Closest competitors are National Geographic magazine and The New Yorker.

Lowman hopes this campaign resonates with its advertiser and agency audience. But she is realistic, too.

“They get so much stuff,” Lowman said. “Every magazine, every TV station, anything that's got something to sell, is trying to sell it to them, and they're so inundated. We hope this will break through the clutter and reinforce just how attractive our reader is.”

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