Live from ECMOD: Prospecting The U.K. Way

London–Although it was moderated by an American, one of the two opening sessions at the European Catalogue and Mail Order Days conference here offered a primer of sorts to multichannel marketing in the U.K.

Led by Jack Schmid, chairman of Mission, KS-based consultancy J. Schmid & Associates, “Offline Customer Recruitment Update” featured a panel of British specialists in national advertising, media inserts, list rentals, and cooperative databases–the primary offline prospecting methods among catalogers here.

“National press and television are still the best way to become famous and build a business quickly,” said David Attinger, founder of Attinger Jack Advertising. The country’s more than a half-dozen national newspapers have traditionally been a prospecting medium for catalogers, which will insert not only solo pieces but full-scale catalogs into papers, in large part to circumvent privacy and list usage rules, which are more stringent here than in the States.

The circulation of national dailies has gone down by 1.2 million readers during the past three years, Attinger admitted, and by 4 million readers during the past 10 years. But a few newspapers–among them the “Daily Mail” and “The Times”–have enjoyed circulation increases. What’s more, papers have introduced a number of supplements during the past few years, which provide more opportunities to reach more-targeted prospects. And because newspapers in the U.K., like their stateside counterparts, are feeling the economic pinch, Attinger said, they are often willing to negotiate terms when wooing new catalog advertisers.

As for TV, the amount of time Brits spend viewing it has increased during the past few years, Attinger said. And as in the U.S., the explosion of cable and digital networks means there are “hundreds of niche channels, which are really good for picking off a select market.” Attinger estimated that a marketer could effectively test a 60-second spot on a cable/digital channel for a month for as little as £29,000: £4,000 for basic but professional production and £25,000 for roughly 600 spots over the course of a month. Like Attinger, Allyson Sullivan of consultancy Independent Direct Marketing was a proponent of media inserts. An insert in a newspaper or supplement, she said, can generate six to eight times the response of a traditional advertisement. Thanks to such developments as improved zoning capability (the ability to cherry-pick which regions you want your insert to appear in) and cheaper tip-ons and bind-ins, there’s been “a massive explosion in catalog carrying,” she said.

Catalogers in the U.K. are clearly catching up to those in the U.S. in terms of database marketing and circulation sophistication. “It’s no longer enough to bombard consumers with random offers,” said Rachele Eddolls, a broker with data services firm Jaywing, in discussing the increasing use of event data. These data–birthdays, weddings, moves, new parenthood–“are more dynamic and need to be used differently” from traditional demographic data, she said. She cited the example of a consumer electronics merchant that, having noticed that people who were moving house were more likely to buy electronics, overlaid a file of new movers with geodemographic data. It was the company’s best-performing prospecting campaign for the year.

During his introduction, Schmid referred to a case study of his own. Years ago, when he worked for “My Weekly Reader,” a newspaper for children, a colleague had suggested placing inserts in egg cartons. His reasoning: Plenty of families with young children eat eggs. Schmid tested inserts in 10,000 egg cartons in California; they were the number-one prospecting tool for that fall season.

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