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The seal is like insect repellent: Without it you'd probably get stung." Or maybe, "The seal is like a valentine: People who say it doesn't mean anything probably didn't get one."

Whatever simile consumers like best isn't important to Good Housekeeping's Associate Publisher-Marketing, Sean K. Sullivan, as long as 92% of women continue to recognize the Good Housekeeping Seal more often than any other consumer emblem.

Nearly 15 years ago, the number of license agreements bearing the seal was more than 200, an all-time high. But in 1997, the number of agreements dropped to 78.

Now, after a fresh marketing effort under Mr. Sullivan's leadership, the number of licensing agreements has sprouted to 110. This translates to about 1,500 products now bearing the seal, from Avon Skin So Soft to Action Lane Furniture.

This much-needed boost can be attributed to a program started nine months ago when independent researcher Siegel & Gale determined that while awareness of the seal was high, knowledge of what it represents was fairly poor.

To increase awareness and understanding, the emblem was redesigned and the accompanying warranty was extended from one to two years. An ad campaign was launched, as well as an ad slogan contest.

The contest asked media planners and advertising executives to submit a slogan in the same form as the ones already produced by Good Housekeeping agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, which start out "The seal is like. . ."

Only companies reviewed and approved for a licensing agreement by the Good Housekeeping Institute can advertise in the monthly, making the magazine unique, says Mr. Sullivan who was recently promoted from his post as director of marketing.

"I know of no other magazine that exerts such a consistent control over the entire magazine," he says. "Readers trust our reports, stories and articles, and that same standard of excellence is also upheld on advertising pages."

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