Pat Saether and Melissa Kopp are smiling now. But as they brainstormed the theme and promotional campaign for Legal & General America's Convention '98, they faced some challenges. Saether, manager, creative services, and Kopp, creative services specialist--along with incentive travel company X-Ceed Performance Group--were for the first time planning and promoting a meeting that would combine attendees from Legal & General's two subsidiaries, Banner Life Insurance Company and William Penn Life Insurance Company of New York. It was also the first incentive meeting held after Banner Life switched to a brokerage general agency distribution system.

"We were promoting to a new audience working to qualify under new rules," Saether explains. "We wanted this to be successful, to be perceived as a great thing to attend for new general agents. When you're promoting to an agency, more than to an individual, you never really know where your mail is going to end up. We needed to get their attention and, minimally, get them to remember Banner Life's convention was going to be held in Puerto Rico." And remember they did, as attendance met its target.

Company: The Legal & General America Companies, Rockville, Md.

Event: Convention '98

Site: Westin Rio Mar, Puerto Rico

Dates: January 14 to 18, 1998

Qualification Period: April 1, 1996 through September 30, 1997

Qualifying Attendees: 118

Total Attendees: 211 (includes spouses, guests, and home-office staff and executives)

Theme: Coqui and a Smile (A coqui is a small frog found in Puerto Rico.)

Design: Logo and kickoff piece: Alison Josephs, Josephs Design

Inc.; theme and other promotional items: Pat Saether, manager creative services, and Melissa Kopp, creative services specialist

Promotion Budget: $7,500, excluding postage

Savings Ideas: "We know what kinds of things we're going to need, so we get everything printed at the same time, even though some things will sit on a shelf for a while," says Pat Saether. She also takes advantage of as much free promotional material--hotel brochures, destination guides, golf scorecards--as she can. But rather than just sending them out as is, Saether and Kopp affix them to sheets of colored paper with promotional copy on one side and qualification requirements on the other.

Departments Involved: Creative Services, X-Ceed Performance Group

A beach ball with the convention site and dates served as the June '97 teaser. "We sent some piece almost every month, varying between a paper product and a 3-D item," says Melissa Kopp.

Encouraging potential qualifiers to "toast Convention '98," Saether and Kopp mailed pina colada mix and instructions on making the famous tropical drink.

This little "stress frog"--squeeze it to relieve anxiety--may have been a welcome promotional item when it arrived in offices in January. "Stressed about your New Year's resolutions?" the accompanying materials asked. Thoughts of Puerto Rico would help.

This tote bag, with the Coqui and a Smile logo on its front pocket, filled with shirts, towels, and information, was given to attendees on site at the Westin Rio Mar in Puerto Rico.

Coqui playing cards were one of the 3-D items sent to potential qualifiers during the 18-month qualification period. Melissa Kopp tried to choose items that were representative of the destination--the playing cards suggested the Westin Rio Mar's casino.

This kickoff piece announces Convention '98 with an audible "ribbit" when the card is opened. The card introduces the Coqui and a Smile theme--a coqui is a small frog found in Puerto Rico, site of the convention. All brokerage general agents received this kickoff at the beginning of the qualification period.

Letterhead with the convention theme and logo was used for all communication to agents and brokers during the qualification period. Qualification standings as well as promotional and informational messages went out on this letterhead. Standings, Saether points out, went out as personalized letters rather than straight reports.