AFP's desire to revamp its image follows a March agreement with 33 state attorneys general over the company's sweepstakes practices. AFP paid $50,000 each to 24 of the 33 states, a total of $1.2 million.
"We've been making a lot of changes in the way we do business," said Susan Caughman, president-CEO of AFP parent American Family Enterprises.
Contenders include Communications Consulting Co., Washington, and New York agencies DDB Needham Worldwide, DeVito/ Verdi, Gotham, Mad Dogs & Englishmen and Partners & Shevack, as well as incumbent Direct Response International. A decision is expected by the end of August.
`THE TIME IS RIGHT'
"The time is right for us to revitalize advertising and get out with a stronger message about our company," Ms. Caughman said. "Our advertising will attest to our integrity."
Print ads addressing AFP's five-point "Commitment to Consumers" already are planned for consumer magazines and newspapers, and will likely run in August or September. Those ads are being created in-house, and it's unclear whether the new agency will assist.
Those points are: No purchase is ever necessary to enter or to win an AFP sweepstakes; every entry has an equal chance to win; no fee is ever necessary to claim your prize; all prizes advertised are awarded; and you can remove your name from the mailing list. The ads also will advise consumers that these are things they should look for before entering any sweepstakes, whether AFP's or someone else's.
AFP came under fire in February when 88-year-old Richard Lusk of Victorville, Calif., traveled to Tampa, Fla., to try to claim the $11 million he thought he won. The company signed an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" with the 33 attorneys general in March, admitting it violated the provisions of certain laws in some promotional messages in its direct mail campaigns. AFP still faces more than 40 lawsuits centered on its sweepstakes practices.
Separately, AFP plans to launch two Web sites by this fall. One will provide customer service; the other will be a commerce site.