Precision tune tries a personal touch Time ads help company zoom in on local markets TARGETING TUNE-UP CUSTOMERS

October 24, 1990|By Michelle Singletary | Michelle Singletary,Evening Sun Staff

Precision Tune is getting personal with its customers.

This month Time magazine subscribers found a $10-off coupon for a tune-up at any local Precision Tune. Nothing unusual about such an offer except some subscribers found their names at the top of the coupon and the listing of the Precision Tune nearest them.

So far, Wayne Luberecki, manager at the Precision Tune on Route 40 in Catonsville, says the campaign has brought in about 10 new customers.

Was it because the coupon listed the customer's name or gave the person the address of a franchise nearby?

"No," said Luberecki. "I think the campaign is good but one of the biggest assets is the $10 off coupon. It's so competitive out there, a $10 coupon is good."

In time, the personal approach will matter, said Stephen Deschenes, director of marketing development for Time Inc. Magazine Co., a division of Time Warner Inc.

Apparently national companies such as Precision Tune are willing to put a personal touch on ads and pay 30 to 40 percent extra to do it.

"Advertisers are using it to break through the clutter," Deschenes said. "Advertisers are looking for new ways to engage the consumer. This is a way to do that. It gives the reader more information."

Precision Tune, based in Sterling, Va., decided to take advantage of a new technology that allows nationally published magazines to zoom in on local markets.

L The company is also planning to personalize ads in Newsweek.

At Time the ability to target certain subscribers is dubbed TargetSelect. In January, Time introduced a computerized system that allows advertisers to personalize advertising on a regional basis for the 14 million subscribers of Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Money, Entertainment Weekly and Life.

Time is counting on this new technology to provide advertisers with a chance to catch the eye of a consumer inundated with direct mail and other advertising.

"This is a whole new level of advertising," Deschenes said. "Advertising itself is under a lot of pressure and people are looking for accountability."

With TargetSelect, Time enters information on optical discs that are sent to its printing plants. Use of a "selective binding" process allows the specific information to appear in a subscriber's magazine.

Deschenes said Time can either use its own subscriber database or that of an advertiser to personalize an ad.

For example, an airline can localize fare information. For subscribers in the Baltimore area, the fare information could list rates from Baltimore/Washington International Airport, while subscribers in other regions get different price lists.

Deschenes said the ads can even target readers according to precise demographic information. A family of four could end up with an automobile ad featuring a new station wagon, while a subscriber who is single would see an ad by the same company but with a sports car. Such detailed demographic information can be obtained from its own subscriber list or supplied to Time by advertisers, Deschenes said.

In the case of Precision Tune, the company gave Time a list of its 580 stores nationwide and their zip codes. Using that information, Time was able to match subscribers in the same zip code with a specific store. In areas where there was no Precision Tune, subscribers were directed to check the local white pages of their phone books.

"I'm not sure this will bring in a ton of customers, but it will give us national exposure," said Marty Schwartz, co-owner of nine Precision Tune franchises in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

"I think it's a neat feature," said Albert Katz, who owns two local Precision Tune stores. Katz also works in corporate operations for Precision Tune, marketing local franchises and coordinating local advertising.

Katz said even with this new target marketing strategy, local media need not worry.

"The bulk of our advertising goes locally," he said.

Since its inception, Deschenes said about 10 major advertisers have taken advantage of TargetSelect. However, the technology only allows two personalized ads per issue.

Deschenes said the selective binding process is expensive. On average a full color page ad in Time for one issue costs about $120,000. To personalize the ad it could cost the advertiser another $40,000 to $50,000. But he said despite that fact that companies are cutting back on advertising, they seem willing to pay the extra fee for TargetSelect.

"The cheapest way to go is occupant mailing and not put a person's name on an ad, but this way it helps get you some attention," said Don Simons, vice president of advertising for Precision Tune. "All this technology helps you get a moment with the consumer. It can be the difference between your ad being read or not being read."

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