Aug 01, 1998 9:30 PM  By

Alternatives to alternative media I read the article “Best bets for prospecting” by Jack Schmid in the April 15 issue twice and liked it both times. I felt that some comments were appropriate, however.

During the past 15-plus years, our company and many of our competitors have offered package inserts to catalogers as a way for them to obtain new customers. Many of these catalogers are now multimillion-dollar companies, with much of their growth funded by using inserts.

With the advent of the Internet, “alternative media” has taken on several new directions, which tends to confuse many of us. What is, for instance, the correct name to be applied to Web advertising? This seems to have promptly been satisfied by the term “new media,” leaving inserts and alternative media to seek a new definition, which I have proposed to be “alternative print media.” Alternative print media incorporates all nontraditional print-generated media-inserts, card decks, co-ops, sampling, blow-ins, bind-ins, etc.

What catalogers need to hear is the success to be obtained by using alternative print media as part of their prospecting tools. But with a few exceptions, catalogers do not publicize their success using media other than lists. With a predilection toward seeking new lists, catalogers overlook the obvious and less expensive but equally effective other, or alternative, media.

Hitting a menopausal nerve Editor’s note: In our May “Backword,” Editorial Director Laura Beaudry complained about prematurely receiving the As We Change catalog, which sells products for women “in midlife and menopause.” Below, the catalog’s founders have their say.

As one of the founders of As We Change, and one who had menopause at 39, I am most interested in the response from the women for whom the catalog is created. Your response-”indignant,” “snarling,” and “personally offended” to have received the catalog-says more about you than it does about the catalog. I took note that, despite your response, you “have to admit I ordered a few things.”

Some sensitivity, please, on your part. This is not about list rentals or direct mail target audiences. This is about millions of women of all ages who don’t know what is available to them for menopause, whether they need it now or later.

We first identified a need for informational, emotional, and product solutions for women in their middle years, including those anticipating or experiencing menopause. In years past, menopause was viewed as overwhelmingly negative. Part of our mission is to help women reclaim the middle years as a time of extreme productivity, excitement, energy, and new beginnings.

We knew that in the most “targeted” sense, the specific physiological changes surrounding menopause more often occur to women between the ages of 45 and 55. Since we determined early on that we would maintain women’s privacy by not looking to “menopause” or “medical” databases, mailing to prolific catalog buyers seemed a good way to reach the women who could benefit from our offering. We have since learned that we have many “secret” customers in their 30s and early 40s; midlife issues extend well beyond the attention-getting symptoms of menopause itself.

Our mission is to try to help shift public perception toward a more enlightened view of menopause-certainly a more positive view than the one you reflected in your letter.

While you’re right that many women don’t like to think of themselves as older than they are, the fact is that baby boomers have radically changed every phase of life through which they’ve passed, and the women of this age group have been particularly effective in making aging look good and feel healthy.

Our catalog appeals to women of all ages because our fundamental message is to take care of yourself-women are very good at taking care of others, but rarely do so for themselves. This is one reason we don’t do age selects on our list rentals. Those infrequent times when we’ve made someone mad are far outweighed by the women who are thrilled to get the catalog or pass it on to someone they know who might benefit.

Regarding your (I think) unfair slam of our Collectors’ Choice Music catalog copy in the May “Backword,” I personally wrote the copy block you criticized because, as I listened to the collection of Ronnie Lane solo sides cited, it struck me that both he and Brian Jones lent their respective bands the pastoral side to their music. It also seems to me that to isolate one sentence out of what is, I think even you will admit, the most complete and authoritative music catalog on the marketplace smacks of a journalist with a large ax to grind and an ego to match. After all, what other catalog would even carry the Ronnie Lane items in question?

Congratulations and best wishes to industry pioneer Lillian Vernon Katz, who tied the knot with salon owner Paolo Martino in New York on June 24.

As you may have heard or read somewhere before, the bride founded the Lillian Vernon gifts catalog from her kitchen table more than 30 years ago. (Question for the wedding guests: Weren’t you a little nervous about selecting the perfect gift for this master merchant?)