DEARBORN, Michigan: The Ford Motor Company, anxious to maximise revenues and cut costs any which way it can, has harnessed the latest marketing medium.

The auto giant is not alone, thanks to the latest developments in database software and sophisticated digital printers.

From such technology has sprung - deep breath now - 'transpromotional marketing'.

Or as plain folk would term it: ads on invoices.

There's nothing new, of course, in enclosing advertising flyers along with bills - 95% of which go straight into the trash bin, according to research firm InfoTrends.

But Ford and other savvy marketers have latched onto database-driven digital printing, not only to generate individual invoices but include targeted personalized marketing messages.

Using extant customer data, Ford Motor Credit uses the 200,000 invoices it prints daily to feature individually tailored service reminders, bonus cash or financing offers and other new car deals.

Invoice marketing manager Dennis McClure deems the practice "a good investment" even though it is costlier than using pre-printed invoice forms.

"We're making sure that we protect and value the customer relationship so we are not inundating them with meaningless communication," he says.

Another transpromotional marketing enthusiast is health-benefits company Humana, which began using the technique last year by including specific messages in the statements it mails to its 4.5 million Medicare members.

In the past year, Humana's customer retention rate has leapt 17% thanks to its new statements, reports strategic communications director Chris Nicholson.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff