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Sony Corp. of America considers its custom publishing and marketing program with Hachette Filipacchi Magazines as key to the success of its new co-branded credit card.

"Direct marketing has been very effective for us in the past," said a Sony spokesman when asked why the company chose custom publishing over more traditional media options.

Establishing the credit card fits into Sony's overall strategy of readying its most loyal customers for the day when Sony plunges into the world of electronic commerce via the Internet. The aim of the custom publishing program is to keep consumers aware of the benefits of using their Sony Card over another credit card.

Deborah Burns, Hachette VP-creative development, credits the strong relationship Hachette built with Sony through other custom publishing projects, such as the annual Sony Style, for sealing the deal.

"Our capability in areas beyond selling them a print ad helped us win a project like this. Sony knows we can create and execute programs using tools beyond the pages of our magazines," she said.

Not only will Hachette be producing the publications that will maintain the crucial link to loyal Sony customers, its titles also will be the major leg of the marketing plan to introduce the card to customers outside of Sony's database. An eight-page advertising insert, appearing in December issues of 19 Hachette titles, will have an 800-number for consumers to call for an credit card application.

Once approved, the consumer will be mailed his first copy of a new quarterly called Sony Rewards.

A Sony spokesman declined to reveal how much the contract was worth or what percentage of the marketing budget for the Sony card was going to Hachette.

"It is a sizable investment for us," he said, adding that the established relationship with Hachette was the reason they won the contract.

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