COLLEGE GRADUATES GET DISCOUNTS WITH DEGREE: CLASS RING COMPANY PAIRS WITH RESPONSE MEDIA

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College graduates are about to receive something arguably more useful than their college diplomas. Direct marketer Response Media Products will team up with Jostens, the purveyor of class rings, to distribute a goody bag of corporate freebies and discounts to college seniors.

This is the first time Jostens has invited other marketers to piggyback on advertising to its niche audience.

Ingrid Brown, VP-promotions and media for Response Media, said the company devised the program after several clients expressed interest in gaining greater access to the post-baccalaureate crowd.

EYEING 'EMERGING CONSUMERS'

While there are many product-driven promotions aimed at college freshmen, she said there are few, if any, that reach out specifically to graduating seniors, whom she called "emerging consumers."

"Graduates are looking for jobs, places to live. They are undergoing major lifestyle changes, and they need to buy things for that new lifestyle," Ms. Brown said.

For now, Response Media is limiting marketer participation in the program to six, each of which will submit a sheet for inclusion in the pack, at a cost of $50 per thousand.

Already on board are General Motors Corp. and Day-timers. GM will offer graduates $400 off any of its new cars, while Day-timers will give away a one-month planner plus a 38% discount on a personalized one-year planner.

WEB SITES PARTICIPATE

Other marketers that have signed up include JobTrack.com, a career-assistance Web site, and Rent.Net, a free Internet-based apartment locator service that also offers discounts on furniture and truck rentals.

The program will begin a test phase in October and November when approximately 50,000 of the packets, dubbed "Real World Survival Tools," will be distributed. .

If successful, the program will be repeated on a larger scale in June, with a distribution of 500,000.

Unlike many college-targeted pitches, "Real World Survival Tools" won't contain credit cards or magazine subscription pitches.

OFFERS PROVIDE 'VALUE'

"Our stipulation with marketers is that all offers have to provide value," Ms. Brown said. "We are looking only for offers that address this lifestyle change. We don't want this to be an overwhelming solicitation."

Jeff Ashenbrenner, Jostens' marketing manager, said Response Media's emphasis on providing valuable products to students was one of the things that attracted Jostens to the project.

"We wanted to get away from the generic ads kids are bombarded with throughout

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