PREMIUM DEALS HELP ENTERTAINMENT COUPON BOOK SOAR

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The Entertainment Book is on a roll.

Created by Entertainment Publications 33 years ago, the books jammed with discounts on dining, travel and entertainment are turning red hot as record numbers of consumers snap them up.

People are so excited about good, cheap fun that they're willing to pay between $40 and $50 for the book, despite the fact that consumer redemption of free supermarket coupons has fallen in recent years.

Consumers justify the cost because total values offered in the book are worth hundreds of dollars. And as the books grow in popularity, more marketers are joining the bandwagon, steadily increasing overall value to consumers.

"We're aggressive in pushing for growth and developing new programs .*.*. but most of the growth can be attributed to a basic concept that works just as well now as it did 10 years ago," said Robert Sarkie, president of Troy, Mich.-based Entertainment Publications.

What has powered the Entertainment Book to new heights recently is increased marketing and distribution of the books, plus co-marketing agreements with the likes of American Airlines and Amoco Enterprises, and improved values on recognized restaurants and hotels across the U.S., tailored to consumers' home regions.

High-power marketing and distribution channels were also added when the company was acquired in 1992 by CUC International, Stamford, Conn. That doubled business by providing access to membership-based discount consumer groups and organizations including Citibank.

This year a record 5 million copies of the book are projected to be sold, up 14% from 1994, Mr. Sarkie said.

In all, more than 100,000 merchants, including 40,000 restaurants, are now represented in the Entertainment Book, making it the largest national discount dining program. Examples of major marketers include Red Lobster, Club Mediterranee, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Musicland Group.

The Entertainment Book and other variations of the coupon resource are distributed primarily through non-profit organizations and co-promotions with national advertisers, the company said. Its largest distribution channel is 70,000 non-profit groups such as clubs, youth groups and schools, which account for books sold in more than 125 markets nationwide.

There are offices in each of the markets with account execs to provide help and guidance for the non-profit organizations. Posters, fliers, ad slicks and other sales materials are provided for each of the local markets and created in-house at the Troy headquarters. The local offices are responsible for placing ads.

One of the fastest expanding channels is co-promotions with Fortune 500 companies like American Airlines and Amoco. The Entertainment Book provides custom books or special programs for companies to give as premiums for valued customers.

For example, Entertainment Publications teamed up with American Airlines in December in a program called AAdvantage Dining. It's offered to the airline's frequent flier customers as another way for them to earn miles.

Members earn three miles for each dollar spent for dining at any of the more than 2,000 upscale restaurants. Members receive a book of restaurants and a dining card produced by Entertainment Publications. The restaurants listed in the book are specifically picked to fit the demographics of the members of AA's frequent flier program.

For Amoco, Entertainment Publications provides a premium item called the MultiCard Savings Book. Amoco distributes the book to all its MultiCard members. It contains local and national advertisers that are of interest to Amoco members.

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