It is important to
begin coordination early. A "working with" attitude must prevail
between the account and creative team who are developing the program.
And, the production team which has the responsibility to make it all happen.
The good folks of
Lewis & Mayne of San Francisco, the catalog production group of Inmac,
a mail-order computer supply house, and Polly Pattison, a publication
design consultant, have each supplied me with a few ideas that will help
you, your creative and your production teams to work better together.
From their ideas,
combined with my own hands-on experience (including some wonderfully successful
as well as outrageously horrible programs!) come two dozen IDEAS:
in advance. Plan everything. Every detail.
Think about all the
variables and options. Write them down, look at the list and add to it.
There is no such thing as too much information.
If the deadlines
are tight, it is even more important to plan ahead. So you can decide
where the sacrificing will come from.
If the campaign is
complex, you need a list to make 110% certain you have included everything.
In its place. Just as an architect needs a blueprint to build a house
-- you need a check list to insure you've covered every production base.
Plan in advance.
Bring in your suppliers
-- early. Talk to your most experienced heads. Ask for their input. Get
their technical expertise early-on in your development stage.
Do this before you
get committed to a single concept that just may not be the best way for
you to go. Before it becomes too late or too expensive to make the needed
Set Schedules! Having
a schedule is not an option -- it is mandatory. For everyone. An entire
section of The 8ight Point Plan is devoted to schedules -- that's how
important it is to the success of your direct response program.
Many times we do
have a schedule. We're serious about it -- but something falls out of
line -- something "breaks" along the way. Do we adjust?
Sometimes -- but
many times we just pressure the production team to still meet the deadline.
And then wonder why quality is not up to standard.
Here is a "rule
of thumb" schedule for various direct mail activities. Build these
times into your schedule:
List selection/rental ................ 2-5
Rough copy ........................... 1-3
Rough layouts ........................ 1-2
Approval ............................. 1-2
Finished graphics .................... 1-3
Typesetting .......................... 1
Order/receive paper .................. 2-8
Order/receive envelopes .............. 1-5
Print letters/simple pieces .......... 1-3
Personalized package letters ......... 2-4
4-color printed materials ............ 2-4
2-color printed materials ............ 1-3
Lettershop ........................... 1-2
Of course, all of
this depends on many things. One of the big items is quantity. The larger
your mailing, the more time you need to schedule. The more personal the
package, the more time it will take.
Another is people.
Don't rush people. People make mistakes and mistakes cost. Stick to your
plan. Enforce your realistic deadlines. And then, be tough.
Work from your budget.
Good professionals are problem solvers. It's their job to know how to
get things done. And they know (so do you!) that good ideas cost money.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Even though one expert
may make a marvelous recommendation, you have to live within your budget
guidelines. Don't throw that good idea away -- save it for next time.
Or the time after that.
Consider every idea
-- many will save you money. Little things, such as a slight change in
paper size, can be worth a lot to you. Consider everything -- and then
decide the best road for you and this program.
Shop for services.
Just as you would anything. Give complete instructions at the beginning.
Start by writing specs for every job and then ask questions. Get quotes.
Make certain YOU understand what you are asking . . . and what you are
the tasks among several direct response printers and lettershops. Don't
assume all printers are alike -- they are not. Using specialists from
a number of sources may save you money. As long as you keep control and
can maintain your schedule.
as you write. This is directed to copywriters. By working with production
from the beginning, it is much easier to make certain your copy will fit
where it is supposed to fit. Know how many characters fill one line (about
40, please -- it is much easier to read). Know your limits, and copy fit
as you write.
Make a dummy. A "sample"
of your package. With all of the elements cut and folded to final size.
With the weight paper you will be using. As close to the final and real
package as possible.
Why? For at least
- It helps both the
copywriter and art director really see how the package and all its pieces
come together. How they "fit". It is important that they do
-- that all that is inside an envelope fits inside. It helps you be
certain the response card fits the response envelope.
- You do need to
check legal requirements, weight, size, and other factors with the post
office ahead of time. You don't want any surprises on mail day.
Be acutely aware of
machine requirements. Today we can truly get anything we want done. Somewhere.
At a cost -- in money
and/or time. But, if we can get some machine to do it, it sure saves on
wear and tear of mind and body. Not to mention the budget.
Use standard everything
-- where practical. Sure, it is exciting to use an "odd" shape
or size envelope or package. only problem is it may not fit in the mail
box/may not work through the machinery/may require hand work.
This is not to say
the different or unusual doesn't have a place in direct marketing -- it
does. Just make sure it is worth the extra effort and cost.
I can't save
this copy. A quote from an art director. Copy is king in direct
response. The graphics can (and should!) make the copy better. Just like
television and radio. Even with the same message, television is more exciting.
Because of graphics.
But, unless the copy
is good, the art director cannot be expected to save it. If it is bad
to begin with, it will still be bad afterwards.
What do graphics
do? The prime purpose of graphics in direct marketing is to get the copy
Illustrate first with
photography. Using people in pictures and captions underneath. Why? Because
research indicates photography is more believable. It enjoys higher readership
when compared to illustrations.
And why captions?
Because they too get read. Your audience learns quickly what it is you
are telling them. They get your message.
Does this mean that
art doesn't have a place in direct response? Absolutely not! It most certainly
does. Sometimes a mix of art and photography makes for a better mail package/brochure/flyer/fulfillment
Consider stock art
and photography. There are times when what is available in stock is just
as good -- if not better -- than going to all the time and effort of creating
your own originals. Keep ego out of it -- it may save you a considerable
Any decent-size print
production house has scores, if not hundreds, of type ornaments. Borders,
backgrounds, corners, and other decorations you can use to "dress"
your mail, brochures, print ads. Know what is available -- and use them
where they fit. They too can offer a cost savings over original art.
Some other cost-saving
graphic ideas include these:
- Consider using
colored paper stocks as a substitute for extra press runs or a second
color. Color stock costs more than white, but the net result could be
a savings if you eliminate a press run.
- Consider "simulated"
die-cuts instead of the real thing. Little things, such as rounding
corners and drilling holes, scoring on the press and perforations, all
give you an action look, without the heavy expense. Try it.
- Avoid special inks.
Unless you have a truly unusual color combination and/or your board
of directors is particularly fussy, stay with the standard PMS colors.
Certainly out of the many hundreds available you can find what you want
and save the extra cost and press time.
If nothing else,
use screens of your basic ink color. Screens can take the place of the
second color. Overlapping screens of two colors can even replace a third
or fourth color.
Gang your production.
Gang your photos. Gang-run printing jobs. Choose your photography with
uniform contrasts -- and then do standard reductions.
When you can print
more than one piece at the same time, on the same press, costs drop dramatically.
All of this applies "when practical". At least think about it
up front -- it saves a little time and a lot of money.
Avoid white space.
Avoid blank pages. Avoid accordion folds. Avoid "fancy".
Avoid the things
that add nothing to the success of your direct mail or brochure. It's
not that on occasion some of these ideas aren't worthwhile -- they are.
But in each case you have to decide if they really help your sales message
to be understood.
On white space and
blank pages remember: "Nobody reads the white space".
Allow your copy to
breathe, yes. But white space for the sake of artistic beauty wins no
awards in direct response. The graphics are to support the copy -- make
it better, more readable -- not replace it.
Avoid tight registrations.
Avoid overprinting photos. Avoid bleeds and heavy ink.
Ditto! Tight registrations
require rules around photos -- which means extra care in the printing
process. It costs money. Why, oh why, anyone overprints photos with type
I'll never understand. It destroys the photo and you can't read the copy!
Bleeds and heavy
ink are similar to tight registrations; if the "feel" of the
piece requires it, fine. It just takes more time and costs more money.
Be sure you can justify both. Remember. Awards hang on walls. The money
goes to the bank.
Avoid reverse type.
Avoid italic type. Avoid ALL CAPS. More of the same. A little reverse
works well. Too much is unreadable.
Italic in small amounts
adds emphasis to your message. Too much is unreadable.
CAPS are fine in
small doses. Too much is unreadable. Since you want your message read,
give it to your audience in the most readable format possible.
S C A N: Square /
Clean / Accurate / Neat It's amazing how sloppy we can get in this business.
It's also amazing how our sophisticated production processes pick up exactly
what we give them. As in the computer industry: GIGO -- garbage in, garbage
The same thing happens
in direct response production. Yes, it takes a little longer to apply
the S C A N formula. Do it.
Use serif typefaces.
There are thousands of different typefaces, and they are divided into
two large groups: Sans-serif and Serif
Serif is better for
anything you expect or want to be read. Use it where there is lots of
copy. (And copy is the rule rather than the exception in direct response.)
Why? Because serif is type with the "feet". As the type in this
book. Which we trust is very readable!
Does sans-serif have
a place in direct marketing? Probably yes, but not if I can help it. Why
do anything that makes it more difficult for your audience to get your
Sans-serif is used
heavily in certain media. Such as outdoor, bus cards, and with many audiovisual
aids, such as slides and overheads.
For readability --
use the serif typefaces. Out of all that are available you'll find several
A quick note on type
size: Make sure your type is large enough to be read easily. Most newspapers
use 8-point type. My suggestion is to use 9-point or larger. I personally
prefer 10- or even 12-point. (This book is set in 11-point type).
than 8 is too difficult to read. Which may be just fine if you're forced
to include the legal requirements or other necessary information that
nobody reads anyway. (There are laws about all of this . . . make sure
you know and follow them).
Look at your audience
and decide if a few more pages of larger type might be worth it. There
is a reason most of the world wears glasses!
O ne more "avoid".
Avoid dating materials. Unless it is absolutely necessary, don't put a
specific date on anything printed. It immediately becomes "dated",
which may mean a perfectly good piece of literature or a direct mail package
becomes "old" before its time.
A little trick I
learned is to include the DAY of the week on the letter in the package.
The day -- let's say Tuesday -- gives a feeling of current. It can't be
more than a week old. And yet that same piece could be used as is for
I nclude your corporate
name, your logo, your complete address, telephone number, area code, and
any special project coding on every piece in your direct mail and fulfillment
packages. Do this on your brochures, flyers, take-ones, and hand-outs.
Why? So if any one
of your pieces is separated from the others your audience can still find
you. Be easy to do business with: Be available.
When you must make
changes, make them early. Don't design on the press.
Some people truly
cannot visualize a package until they see it. Which is another reason
a dummy package or tight layout can be so important.
But, some people
at the approval level seem to always decide at the last minute that something
just has to be changed.
My rule is this:
If it is truly an error -- wrong, a mistake -- then it gets corrected.
If it is a desire, a want, a feeling, then you get to pay for it. It will
cost in money first and probably time. You may miss your place in line
or you may miss an important "drop-dead" date.
And, put it ALL in
writing. So everyone knows what to expect and when.
people are busy, many times with a number of balls in the air, they tend
to prefer not to put everything in writing. Don't do that to yourself.
Or let it happen to you.
By now you can certainly
understand the advantage of having all the decisions, directions, dates
in writing. If for no other reason, to catch something that fell through
In Summary ...
I have not attempted
to recommend, suggest, or debate pros and cons on the way to do anything.
Or to discuss the very detailed technology that is available to us today.
For someone like
me, who has difficulty closing the ironing board or hanging a picture
straight, production itself is something of a miracle. Frankly, I don't
really understand how it all happens -- how it all comes together.
And you know what?
I don't care. I do care that it happens.
Within a reasonable
schedule. For a fair cost. How is of no real interest.
What this attitude
does say is you, like me, must have on your team -- either inside your
organization or out -- people who do understand all the options. Who are
capable of making the best decision when it comes to an either/or choice.
People who know how
to buy. Who understand paper. The envelope business. Printing in all its
various formats. Who know when you can do it "down and dirty".
And when it must be five stars.
People who can negotiate
with brokers. Who understand what real deadlines are as opposed to those
we artificially throw up from time to time. Who can first understand a
budget and then work within it.