Magazine ads go electronic

Technology Article - Houston Chronicle - Charles Boisseau

Houston, Texas - May 3, 1993 - It happens all the time: Readers want more information than is printed in a magazine ad.

Trade publications have devised a method to satisfy this demand by inserting little reader response cards, known in the industry as "bingo cards".  Readers circle numbers on the cards corresponding to advertisers from which they want information, and mail in the cards. Then they wait four to six weeks for a brochure or catalog to arrive.

Now, there's a cheaper, faster, easier way. The Oil & Gas Journal, the Houston trade magazine, is offering a service in which subscribers get information free via personal computer.

Coinciding with this week's massive Offshore Technology Conference trade show, the publication has launched what it is call the JET system - short for Journal Electronic Transfer. It's an interactive advertising pipeline; Customers call a toll-free number to enter a computer data base, or bulletin board, and select from a list of advertisers. Personal computer users can access catalogs and brochures produced in multimedia - combining text, video and even animation.

The service is a neat fit, fit for trade journal readers who crave detail about technical products and advertisers who want to cut the cost of producing expensive printed materials, said Don Francis, marketing communications director of the journal.

"So far as I know, we are the first trade magazine to do this," he said.

The service also is a perfect match for another Houston-area company, EPIC Software. EPIC makes interactive catalogs, computer disk-based ads and slide shows for clients such as Enron, Shell and Pennzoil.

Sales information is otherwise difficult to understand in printed form can be brought to life on a PC, said Vic Cherubini, EPIC president. For example, computer graphics can show how a new process in a refinery works or demonstrate improvements to a butterfly mechanism in a valve. Plus, users get instant data tailored to their needs, such as price quotes, by responding to queries on a screen.

EPIC sends most of its ads to engineers at oil companies in the form of computer disks, though more recently it expanded with a fax-on-demand service.

One client has already asked EPIC to look into making ads for the new JET system. "I think this could be a marriage made in heaven," Cherubini said.