Hallmark has new business card

Sound bites from pics, TV shows, songs provide revenue boost

NEW YORK -- Steve Carell, Johnny Depp, Jon Heder and Brandon Routh are all now starring in ... birthday cards from Hallmark.

The cards not only feature images of the actors but play up to 30 seconds of theme songs or sound bites from their films and TV shows when the cards are opened. Following enormous success with a broad line of music sound cards launched last year featuring such top talent as the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Louis Armstrong, Shania Twain, George Thorogood and Johnny Cash, Hallmark recently decided to expand its film- and TV-themed cards.

From its initial launch of 24 song cards in January 2006, Hallmark now has about 250 music- and entertainment-themed cards on the market.

"The cards are performing very well, which is why we continue to expand them," said Kristin Barnes, marketing director of licensing for privately owned Hallmark Cards. "They're certainly attracting a new consumer into our stores. We have seen traffic increase because people are coming to seek out these cards."

Barnes declined to provide specifics on the number of sound cards sold or the revenue generated from them, but Hallmark attributes much of its 5% consolidated revenue gain to $4.1 billion in 2006 to its sound cards and other innovative products that feature sound chips, including travel mugs, photo frames, gift wrap, gift boxes and gift bags.

The sound cards were initially introduced in Hallmark Gold Crown Stores but are now available everywhere Hallmark Cards are sold. "We had such a fabulous response to them," Barnes said. "They were just flying off the shelves."

She said that while Hallmark's focus last year was on the music cards, the company is now seeking to do much more with TV shows and movies. Among some of the entertainment-themed cards already on the market feature "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Superman Returns," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Napoleon Dynamite," "Star Wars," "The Office," "Law & Order" and Disney Channel hits "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and "That's So Raven."

Hallmark's top-selling entertainment-themed card is a birthday card featuring "Dynamite's" Heder; its No. 1 music card features Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone."

Barnes said Hallmark Cards is "constantly" adding more entertainment sound cards to its offerings and is in discussions with studios, networks and producers about creating cards featuring the most current movie and TV titles.

Hallmark has hired Corbis, a Seattle-based company founded and owned by Bill Gates, to clear the rights to music and entertainment content for its sound cards.
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