April in Paris Parlez-vous promotion? GE Capital Assurance certainly does. The centerpiece of its one-year campaign to promote the 1998 Leading Producers Conference in Paris was a loose-leaf notebook that built excitement as it expanded. The marketing services department mailed out the binder and monthly dividers to all 1,100 career agents at the beginning of the campaign in January 1997, and each month sent along additional chapters with a gift. While the gifts had either a French association--cookbook, language tapes, and so on--or an April in Paris logo, the monthly chapters were key to the promotion's continuity.

The San Rafael, Calif.-based long-term care insurer is keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of its promotion efforts. This year the marketing services department surveyed agents about the meeting materials. "We found out they don't always have time to read everything," says Carol Oakes, senior copywriter. "So for our next promotion for our 1999 Costa Rica incentive, we're writing a little less copy."

The only 1997 promotional item not pictured here is the bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau that 259 agents received in November. The wine is released each year in France just after midnight on the third Thursday of November.

THE PROGRAM Company: General Electric Capital Assurance, San Rafael, Calif.

Event: 1998 Leading Producers Conference

Site: Hotel Inter-Continental Paris

Dates: April 28, 1998, to May 3, 1998

Qualification Period: January 1, 1997, through December 31, 1997

Qualifying Attendees: 161

Total Attendees: 366, including spouses, guests, home-office staff, and company executives

Theme: April in Paris

Design: The April in Paris theme was developed by Director of Marketing Barry Wolpa, Graphic Designers James Dawson and Chase Clow, and Senior Copywriter Carol Oakes. Oakes worked in Pagemaker layout software to write and design the monthly inserts for the notebook. GE Meeting Planner Sharon Borstad worked with Stephanie Rhoads- Bickham of Innovative Marketing, Orinda, Calif., to research and coordinate the monthly Paris-themed gifts.

Promotion Budget: $100,000, everything included

Savings Ideas: "One way we saved was to print our stationery in advance," says Oakes. "Also, we designed the notebook to accommodate 8.5-inch by 5.5-inch pieces of paper, which allowed us to get two pages out of every standard sheet."

Departments Involved: Marketing Services, which includes graphic designers, writers, meeting planners, and marketing managers

In February, agents received this mini Eiffel Tower and a 23-karat-gold embossed Eiffel Tower painting, as well as a chapter for their notebooks that featured a short history of the famous landmark.

French-milled soaps, scented with wild rose, honeysuckle, and lavender, went out to 558 agents in September.

The conference poster mailed to all agents in December 1996, just before the qualification period began, along with a 1997 hanging calendar filled with images of Paris.

Victory is sweet. This framed bar of chocolate, decorated like Claude Monet's painting of the gardens at Giverny, was the final incentive for the 206 agents still on track for the trip to Paris.

GE Capital Assurance sent this loose-leaf binder to all 1,100 career agents in January 1997, and each month mailed out additional chapters with a gift. The chapters included everything from hotel information to a primer on Impressionism to French phrases. During the second half of the year, the inserts listed the names of agents who had qualified--or were close to qualifying.

Sure to find a place on the desktop, every page of this note paper reminded agents of the April in Paris theme.

An oversize paper clip arrived in March to keep agents organized and to motivate them to keep their business "clipping" along.

At GE Capital Assurance's Agent Training Conference in August, the Marketing Services department gave away April in Paris pencils at the information booth to any agent who would fill in a survey about the department's promotional efforts.

This ruler and pencil holder, mailed in July, were the last promotional materials sent out to all 1,100 career agents. Throughout the rest of the year, items were mailed to fewer and fewer producers as the qualification period drew to a close.

With three months to go, just 451 agents--those who had qualified and those who were within range--got this set of Fodor's French language audio-cassettes and phrase book.

Highlighting many of the places qualifiers would visit, GE enticed agents in June with this full-color, 200-page book, as well as an April in Paris bookmark.

The August chapter of the loose-leaf notebook, which accompanied this cookbook, discussed French cuisine. The cookbook went out to half the company's agents--just those who were on track.

A T-shirt mailed in April, along with a notebook insert that explained the shirt "should help keep the conference near and dear to your heart, as you keep your placement rate high." April's insert also offered a history of the Arc de Triomphe and a page of French phrases for shopping enthusiasts.