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Card vendors turn to consumers to create ‘customer-ized’ greetings

BY Doug Desjardins

Jumping into the trend of user-generated content, greeting card companies are asking consumers to help them create new card lines as they look for novel ways to grow the $7.5 billion U.S. greeting card business.

American Greetings, for example, has launched a campaign called ‘Think You’re Funny? Prove It!’ The program that began in February and runs through May 11 encourages consumers to visit the American Greetings Web site, view three blank cards with funny photos and write a funny caption for them.

The company says the campaign will allow people to get a better idea of the work that goes into making a greeting card and give them a chance to participate and see their own creations in the greeting card aisle. American Greetings noted that only 1 percent of the photos considered for a card actually make it into print.

“The image is what often attracts a consumer but the inside of the greeting card has to offer that exclamation point,” said American Greetings assistant product manager Mindy Johnson, adding that the company is going to announce the winning caption in June. The winner will receive $1,000 and have their card included in American Greeting’s new line of humorous cards.

Hallmark will debut a line created by customers on June 16 when it rolls out its Your Pets collection. Hallmark asked fans to submit pictures of their pets along with a title and funny caption and received more than 7,000 entries. From those submissions, it selected the 67 it felt were the best, and winners from 30 states will get to see their creations on store shelves in June. In the meantime, photos of the winning cards are available for viewing on the company’s Web site.

Your Pets was the second contest in an ongoing competition Hallmark launched last fall to get customers more involved in creating new card lines. “For years, Hallmark consumers have approached us with incredible ideas for greeting cards,” said Ingerlene Embry, editorial director at Hallmark. “And we want to encourage that passion.”

Nearly all of the entries submitted in the contest were of pet dogs and cats but they also included parrots, pigs, horses, rabbits, turtles and even a pet chinchilla. The entries were judged by Hallmark staffers and outside experts including the art director of Dog Fancy magazine.

With ‘Your Pets’ wrapped up, Hallmark in March launched a new program called ‘Your Funnyness’ that asks consumers to contribute humorous cards in its quest to find “the funniest card creator in the country.” Hallmark plans to announce the winners sometime in April.

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JPMA refutes media reports about dangers of baby bottle materials

BY Jenna Duncan

MT. LAUREL, N.J. The media has been asked by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to halt stories with claims of purported negative health effects from using baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA). JPMA claims that statements of ill health linked to items containing BPA are often misleading and frighten consumers.

According to JPMA, research has shown that when used properly, products made with BPA do not pose a health threat.

Robert Waller, Jr., the president of JPMA, said, “JPMA is extremely disappointed in the media for speculating that Health Canada’s assessment of BPA would recommend labeling the chemical a dangerous substance, when in fact the report has not even been issued yet.”

Claims in the media have stated that risk may come from the plastic shields on pacifiers, parts of baby bottles or sippy cups being broken down or chewed, and then ingested with food or saliva. Scientific findings indicate that BPA may cause estrogenic effects in laboratory animals, and so concerns about the safety of baby products, especially bottles, has been under scrutiny.

JPMA, whose mission is to educate consumers and industry professionals about juvenile products and safety, is referring consumers to its Web site, www.babybottles.org, for more information on BPA and related health findings.

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American Greetings reports fiscal 2008 profit

BY Doug Desjardins

CLEVELAND American Greetings generated $83.3 million in earnings for fiscal 2008, including $15.6 million in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 29, and more than $1.77 billion in total sales for year. Total sales were down about 1 percent from $1.79 billion the previous year, but earnings were up 96 percent from $42.4 million.

“I’m pleased we were able to achieve earnings within our forecasted range and exceed our cash flow guidance,” said American Greetings chief executive officer Zev Weiss. “Our strong cash flow allowed us to make two acquisitions in the digital photo space and repurchase shares.”

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