While a range of companies have used catalogs to present their products and services to targeted audiences, none may be more sensitive and carefully targeted than those of California Cryobank and Cryogenic Laboratories.
The two companies print catalogs of sperm donors for people who are considering artificial insemination. The catalogs are distributed to doctors' offices around the country and sent to those who call the companies directly to request information.
“It's not something glossy; it’s more like a listing. It's about seven pages, with the first page explaining our services,” said Melonee Evans, client relations manager at California Cryobank, Los Angeles. “It had been arranged simply numerically, but now we've changed it and have it arranged by the donor's ethnic background. We want to make it easier for clients.”
California Cryobank sends its catalogs to physicians found through trade shows and lists of associations of doctors who specialize in the field.
They are not alone in their interest in reaching infertility professionals. Past annual conferences of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Birmingham, AL, have drawn interest from sperm banks, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies and medical textbook publishers, according to a spokeswoman, who noted that although there are certain restrictions, the association’s membership list of 9,700 professionals also can be rented.
Five thousand copies of California Cryobank's catalog are published monthly and generally contain more than 200 profiles. The catalog is usually the prospective client’s first introduction to the company, Evans said.
“People go through their doctors, or there are organizations out there specializing in infertility issues,” she said. “They find out about us and are either given a catalog or call in for one.”
At Cyrogenic Laboratories, Roseville, MN, a catalog of donors is part of a packet containing brochures of information about the company's services.
“It's informational and educational to some degree,” Russ Bierbaum, technical director, said of the catalog and brochure packet. “From our experience, there are a lot of topics that have to be covered. We assume everyone will get to the point of asking questions, so we try to answer them up front.”
Bierbaum assumes the three-page catalog of donors is the last thing prospective clients look at in the company's packet. “First, they have to decide if they are willing to do this; then they want information; then they look through the catalog to select the donors.”
Catalogs are a natural part of the process of selecting a donor, according to Seth G. Dermer, M.D., a fertility specialist with the Delaware Valley OB/GYN and Infertility Group in Lawrenceville, NJ, who noted that not just clients but physicians also must look carefully at donor characteristics.
“We tell them what we think is important for them to look for, then we give them the catalogs of the sperm banks we work with,” he said.
However, Dermer noted that what patients look for as they search through the catalog and what their physicians look for is often very different.
“What the physician looks for is blood type and that the general appearance of the donor is similar to that of the couple,” he said, noting that blood type is important primarily so that the child will find out about the artificial insemination when parents choose to tell him or her, rather than accidentally. Physicians also look for certain diseases, such as Cyto Megalo Virus, which, if the mother is also a carrier, could cause complications during pregnancy.
“What clients often look for initially is physical appearance, but also background, hobbies and interests, which aren’t actually relevant because interests are more influenced by the environment,” he said. “We try to caution them not to look for a 6-foot blonde but for someone with their blood type who fits with their appearance.”