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Mastering the Production Challenge
By Ray Jutkins   Printer Friendly Version

Tips on managing the many details of a DMcampaign. The techniques you use to produce your direct response program will influence its success in two ways: The level of quality you choose will significantly affect the program's image, readership, and level of awareness. And the way you produce the program will have a major effect on its cost.

Production of anything offers endless possibilities for things to go wrong. As Sandy McCormick, founder of McCormick Oil & Gas, said: "Organize yourself so that when everything that can possibly go wrong goes wrong twice, you're still in business."

Planning your creative approach and production process occurs simultaneously. Here are two-dozen helpful ideas, based on my own experience with some wonderfully successful as well as some outrageously horrible programs!

1. Plan every detail. Consider all variables and options. There is no such thing as too much information.

2. Bring suppliers in early. Talk to your most experienced heads. Get their technical expertise early in your development stage.

3. Set schedules. A schedule is not optional -- it is mandatory.

4. Work from your budget. Professionals are problem solvers. It's their job to get things done. And they know good ideas cost money. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

5. Shop for services as you would for anything else. Give complete instructions at the be ginning. First write specs for every job, then ask questions. Get quotes.

6. This is for copywriters: Copy "fit" as you write. By working with production from the beginning, it's easier to be sure your copy will fit.

7. Make a dummy, or sample, of your package in the paper you'll use, with all elements cut and folded to final size.

8. Be acutely aware of machine requirements. Today, we can get anything we want done at a cost, in time or money.

9. Where practical, use standard materials.

10. "I can't save this copy." That's a quote from an art director. Copy is king in direct response. Graphics should make copy better.

11. Illustrate first with photography, using people in pictures and placing captions underneath. Research indicates photography is more believable than illustrations.

12. Consider stock art and photography. Sometimes, stock can be just as good or better than expending the time and effort to create your own art.

13. Any decent-size print production house has scores of type ornaments borders, back grounds, corners and other elements to "dress" your pieces.

14. Other cost-saving graphic ideas: Consider colored paper stocks as a substitute for extra press runs or a second color. Try "simulated" diecuts instead of the real thing. Avoid special inks. If nothing else, use screens of your basic ink color. Screens can replace a second color.

15. "Gang" your production, photos, printing jobs.

16. Avoid white space, blank pages, accordion folds.

17. Avoid tight registrations, overprinting photos, bleeds, and heavy inks.

18. Avoid reverse type, italic type and all caps.

19. SCAN: Square-Clean-Accurate-Neat. As with computers, it's GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. Yes, it takes longer to apply the SCAN formula, but do it anyway!

20. Use serif typefaces. Serif is better for anything you want read. Use it where there is a lot of copy.

21. Don't date material unless absolutely necessary. A date could make a perfectly good package old before its time.

22. Include your corporate name and logo, complete address, phone and fax numbers, plus any special project coding on every piece in your package.

23. If you must make changes, make them early. Don't design on press.

24. Put it all in writing so that everyone knows what to expect and when.


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