Winning At Cards

J.R. Badian's supermarket postcards come up trumps

Advertisers have long targeted youthful consumers by placing racks of free postcards in hip restaurants and nightclubs. In 1998, J.R. Badian hit upon a less hip, though just as promising, venue for postcard marketing--supermarkets. After all, they have heavy foot traffic and lots of moms, a demographic notoriously tough for advertisers to reach. Compared with nightclubs, distribution would be a cinch. "If you sign up Pathmark, you get 130 stores," says Badian. "Supermarkets were too perfect."

Two years later, Badian's company, BrandAid Communications, is sitting on $3 million in venture capital and running trials with advertisers such as Kellogg's and Hawaiian Punch. Ad agencies pay Badian a monthly fee to print the cards and stock them in racks in supermarkets nationwide. Consumers take them because the artwork is appealing and the ad message subtle. "The results are really phenomenal," says Sara Morgan, an account supervisor for Lifetime Television. "Postcard advertising has really taken off." Supermarkets, which receive a cut of Badian's sales, appear just as enthusiastic. After three months of operation, BrandAid has signed exclusive contracts with Pathmark Stores, Vons, and Dominics, and has grossed some $80,000.

Now 27, Badian was a strategic planner at News Corp. when the idea for BrandAid hit. He entered Babson College's MBA program in May, 1998. A year later, after five months in Babson's incubator, BrandAid won the school's business-plan competition. Badian began pitching for venture backing. "It was us against the dot-coms," he says. By fall, the company had $750,000.

In 2000, the 10-employee company hopes to hit sales of $600,000. Optimistic? Sure. But Badian says that $45,000--about the cost of a half-page ad in a national magazine--buys 1 million postcards in 1,000 supermarkets. And that's no card trick.

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