Twenty-four months, eight quarters, 730 days: Any way you look at it, a two-year qualification period is a long time to hold agents' attention. That was the challenge for MassMutual's Conference Planning department when it launched the promotional campaign for its second Growth Conference in 1994.

The first thing in the promotion's favor was an outstanding destination. Not only does Paris have rich appeal, but this was only the second MassMutual incentive trip to an international location.

The second thing in its favor was a plan. Mark Kustwan, MassMutual's director of conferences, worked with The Super Market, an East Longmeadow, MA-based advertising and design firm, to design and carry out a campaign that delivered a consistent message, with images that were repeated again and again. "No matter what was sent out, it was always recognizable as a Paris promotion even before the person opened it," says Kustwan.

In addition to quarterly mailings (shown at right), Kustwan ran monthly advertisements in the company's field newspaper, The Word, and took advantage of the established annual incentive trips (held during the course of the Growth Conference promotion) by hosting Paris-theme coffee breaks, with cappuccino, French pastries, accordion music, monitors showing a Paris video, and racks of brochures to browse through and take home.

Company: MassMutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA

Event: MassMutual Growth Conference

Site: Inter-Continental Le Grand, Paris, France

Dates: April 13 to 17, 1996

Qualification Period: January 1, 1994 through December 31, 1995

Qualifiers: 133

Total Attendees: 250, including spouses and home-office staff

Theme: Springtime in Paris

Design: Mark Kustwan, MassMutual's director of conference planning, hired The Super Market, an East Longmeadow, MA-based advertising and design firm, to work with him on art and promotion ideas and to carry out the campaign. The design firm contracted a freelance artist, Paula Munck, to create the original art that formed the centerpiece of the campaign. MassMutual's senior art director, Tom Lak, also was a valuable consultant to the project.

Promotion Budget: $40,000 paid for everything except printing of on-site collateral materials.

Savings Ideas: "Planning is critical. Time spent on the front end to plan a strategy leads to savings in the long run. By anticipating our needs over the two-year promotional campaign, we achieved economies of scale by ordering in bulk," says Leslie Lawrence, owner of The Super Market.

Departments Involved: Individual Line Conference Planning, Creative Services, Graphic Services

Planner Comments: "Conferences are a lot like real estate," Kustwan says. "It's location, location, location. Paris is easier to promote than most destinations."