By Hallie Mummert After more than 40 years of perfecting the direct mail sweepstakes, Reader's Digest has closed its prize money vault. In 1998 newly appointed Reader's Digest Association CEO Tom Ryder saw the writing on the wall for the publishing giant, and announced a plan to revitalize the brand—starting with product improvements and a gradual weaning of sweepstakes promotions. Not surprisingly, this plan came at a time when Congress was pushing for sweepstakes reform, and the state attorneys general were punishing direct marketers they felt were the poster children of sweepstakes. Only a few years after strict legislation regulating sweepstakes promotions was passed

At a DMA fund-raising day in New York City, a marketer from Boys Town said that for years his organization refused to use the little personalized return labels because, "Everybody was using them and we did not want to look like everybody else." Then one day he went into the mail room and grabbed 10 pounds of Business Reply Mail "just to see what we were getting." It turns out, a large number of the BREs had return labels from other charities in the upper left corner. "Obviously our people responded to return label mailings," he said. "We tested one and it is now

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