Monthly Archives: June 2012

Should You Rely on Design to Boost Your Direct Mail Response Rates?

I love a good challenge. A client of mine came to me the other day with a good one. He, an employee of a NY-based university, said that the school was about to begin soliciting alumni for donations. The school had done this twice before but had less-than-impressive results. Could I help him?

I really appreciate when clients think like this. So much of agency marketing work relies on coming up with smart ways of executing communication solutions. This, however, was a situation where we got to be a part of the process—where we were able to help find the solution, not just execute it.

In direct mail, there’s a concept known as the 40-40-20 rule. That is, 40 percent of direct mail success depends on a well-planned mailing list, 40 percent on a compelling offer, and 20 percent on creative work. Unfortunately, I’d say most direct mail actually operates more at 15-15-30. (And yes, I know that math isn’t right.)

Before I continue, let me say now that we really love this client. This has nothing to do with marketing naïveté (well, maybe some) or competence levels. These are smart people who have only just begun this process––they’re just not sure of the best way to approach this. And that’s where we come in.

We told them to look closely at their audience: Who are these people? When did they graduate? Where do they live now? Have you heard from them since? By segmenting their list into manageable demographics and psychographics, they can better target their potential customers. People are not interchangeable, and they shouldn’t be treated that way.

Next, consider the offer. What would it take for you to open a #9 envelope? What would make you take action? If you hadn’t heard from your alma mater in 20 years and suddenly it began asking you for money, how would you feel? And thus, what incentive would it have to offer in order for you to contribute your hard-earned dollars?

If you’re looking to improve the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns, take a look at this ratio. Eighty percent of it has nothing to do with your creative. One shouldn’t, however, shortchange the creative. This final 20 percent is crucial to conveying your message. It determines how that message is constructed and how effective it is at grabbing one’s attention. Don’t saturate, clutter, or distract the viewer in any way. Humans have the attention span of a fish, it seems. Keep their eyes on the prize.

Author: Eric Swenson


The End of Publishing? Not If You Tell It Like George Carlin

The late, great George Carlin had a way with words, no doubt. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your spin, he is best known for his famous “seven dirty words.” If you’re a follower of his, you know he possessed a fantastic ability to string together a group of words into thoughts. He used his rants not only to tell a story but to make a statement about our society as a whole. It wasn’t what he said but how he delivered the message that made him funny, poignant, and a staunch defender of the proper use of language.

According to George:

“Americans have trouble facing the truth. So they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it. . . . the language that takes the life out of life.”

“Sometime during my life, toilet paper became bathroom tissue. . . . Sneakers became running shoes. False teeth became dental appliances. Medicine became medication. Information became directory assistance. The dump became the landfill. Car crashes became automobile accidents. Partly cloudy became partly sunny. Motels became motor lodges. House trailers became mobile homes. Used cars became previously owned transportation. Room service became guest room dining. Constipation became occasional irregularity.”

In regards to technology, among other things:

“We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.”

“These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.”

Carlin was an accomplished writer as well. His “first real book,” Brain Droppings, was on the New York Times Best-Seller List as a hardcover edition for 18 straight weeks in 1997. The book had sold over 750,000 copies by 2001 and was published as an audio book in 2000, winning Carlin his third Grammy Award.

In 2008, Carlin was awarded, posthumously, the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement for humor. Like Twain, he used language for social commentary, which  has had a far more powerful effect on his audiences because of expanded media options.

Carlin was a standup comic by trade, but he did not miss the chance to use publishing to get his word out. The future of publishing is considered dead by some, yet I contend it is just in another transition as was evident with his Grammy for his audio book version.

Consider now the following YouTube clip, “The Future of Publishing,” uploaded by PenguinGroupUSA. Since March 2010, this clip has had more than 788,619 hits and was originally prepared for a sales conference by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books. The video was such a hit that it was shared externally, and when you view it, think of what George Carlin’s delivery might have been.

Check out this video, “The Future of Publishing.” You may have to watch it more than once.

Author: Tom Caska

6 Train Ad Wrap – NEW for the MTA!

Have you seen/ridden the 6 train lately? The latest and greatest from the MTA’s advertising department is the 6 train ad wrap.

Subway wrap advertising can be a great way to reach an extensive cross section of consumers. As with everything else, subway wrap advertising has its advantages and disadvantages. From a positive perspective, subway wraps are a great idea, as they do stand out and people will most likely remember them. They definitely have the potential to cut through the ad clutter. People will most likely talk about the wrap, creating buzz, and a lot of people ride the subway on a daily basis. Surely it’s not just about the number of people riding the subway, though, but also about hitting the right demographic with the messaging. That is one of the challenges. Also, subway wraps can be seen as an invasion of commercialism, creating a negative vibe, but as I said, there will always be potential drawbacks.

I’ve seen the shuttle train between Grand Central and Times Square wrapped in various advertisements before, but never the 6 train. A few days ago I stepped into a 6 train fully wrapped in Swatch ads, and I must admit, it grabbed my attention. Not because I thought it looked amazing or breathtaking or made me run to the Swatch store. I simply found it cool. Refreshing. Out of the norm. Colorful. Fun. Made me smile. And I am positive someone in that full train car must have gotten a new Swatch by now. Now that I think of it, my cell phone has been my “watch” for the last ten years. Do people really buy watches as they used to?!

New Yorkers are pretty opinionated. Let’s see some comments they have made online about the 6 train ad wrap:

I has constantly amazed me that the MTA hasn’t already done this system-wide instead of hiking fares every few months.

yes, please mta – ads everywhere, we don’t care. anything you can do to make some extra money so these fare hikes/service cuts stop

I came to say this. I really do not care about the ads. Most of them are surprisingly well done and don’t bother me at all. More ads and less fare hikes please!

As long as it’s not a subway sized ad with Dr. Zizmor’s face I’m all for it.

When it comes to adverts on the subway, it’s not so bad here. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve been to some Asian countries. It’s advertisement overload.

I don’t mind this at all, especially if it actually provides revenue. It looks sort of… modern.

Good. I don’t know why they didn’t do this years, decades, ago. Now let’s wrap all the trains on all the lines in ads. Make some money & stop raising fares.

WOW I LIKE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bad move… Now watch the graffiti artists go back to work thinking that the MTA thinks it’s ok to paint subway cars… Geeze MTA you are soo smart…

it’s all about $$.


From a distance, it kind of looks like what the subway cars used to look like back in the 70s and 80s.

I don’t care how many ads (or even graffitti) you allow on as long as the trains run ON TIME for a change and I don’t have to pay even more than we’re already paying. Not having to wait 30mins for a bus in Bklyn (for the people who use them) would be nice too. So go ahead and sell out, but get your ship together while you’re at it.

2011 and back to the 80’s type graffitti trains AGAIN>>……. do i really freaking want to see Ad’s on the outside of the train ….NOT!


Very cute…I was on it yesterday

Yei thats so Cool all tohough the graffiti ones looks cooler cuz they represente NYC =D

I like the idea. The more money that they raise through ads, the less they have to raise the fare.

new york is the best 🙂

It just LOOKS tacky!

That is awesome. It’s a breath of fresh and colorful air. Bring it on. Wrap ’em with color!

more moving ad wraps are neccesary and will make the subway cars not dull.

Fantastic! How long will this last? Great idea for revenue. Very well done.

Seriously though, anything that is different to look at (advertising most certainly counts) and ads revenue is fine with me.

I love it! I rode on that train going to work yesterday morning and the colors are great and work on that 6 train. I hope the MTA does this to more trains in the system as the year continues on and they need to wrap the buses too. They’ll make even more money that way, especially if it brings in more revenue to the system and keeps th fares down a bit and keeps service in place.

I just love the swatch train….somehow it gives you a lift in the morning to see all the bright colors….the MTA should continue to wrap the trains and also the buses this way they can stop constantly harassing us for more money…unfortunately, the MTA would probably waste the proceeds as they usually do….

Yes. It’s a brilliant idea to use a subway train to advertise your timepieces. Because the subways in New York run like clockwork.

This is ridiculous, honestly. Why does it take so much time just to wrap another train? If MTA is really so cash starved, then wrap every darned subway car all the time and generate real revenue. And do it right now. This is such a non-big deal that they are still ‘experimenting’ after all the previous ‘successful’ (I would guess) ad placements.

Remember their stupid idea of covering the windows in wrap instead of the car bodies?

They’re not that cash hungry after all…

In an interview a few years ago, Zizmor said he barely gets new clientele from the subway nowadays – he keeps advertising because otherwise his clients would think he’s retired.

Tough crowd out there. What do You think of the subway wrap advertising?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Apple Lays Framework for GravyPort

Apple’s GravyPort requires a new infrastructure to be laid to accommodate this new data transition medium. Researchers at MIT discovered the incredible data transfer properties of the late Steve Job’s grandmother’s traditional gravy in 2010 and have been diligently working on a new specification to use this new medium to its fullest extent.

OK, so GravyPort doesn’t exist, but during its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, Apple basically bet the farm on mobile with some standout points covered by Utterly Orange contributing blogger Susan Hallinan yesterday (check out her post here).

Plus, Siri opened for Tim Cook in true Apple style.

At the core of the WWDC event were glimpses of the future of computing from Apple’s perspective. With killer MacBook Pros, updated MacBook Airs, and iOS6 updates that will push mobile computing forward, Apple clearly still has innovation as its focus, at least for the foreseeable future. Consider the insane 30 billion (that is 30 followed by nine zeros) app downloads––the Apple App Store continues to prove its supremacy in the market. All that being said, WWDC emphasizes the third letter in the acronym, the D for Developers. The event offers insight into the next generation of features that the legions of iOS and Mac OS developers can leverage to prompt new app downloads or improve their market share for a given piece of software. The symbiotic relationship between developers and the hardware/software giant is at the heart of “bet the farm on mobile.”

WWDC didn’t expose anything earth-shattering (big surprise). The event simply reinforced the  Cupertino darling’s trickle-style feature release to keep Apple followers around the planet happy. The fine balance between just enough to keep things fresh and just far enough ahead of the competition to stay on top was ever present. If Apple’s bet on mobile pans out, this blogger/Apple fan/lover of innovation sees a desktop-less world with powerful tablets and stellar smartphones in the five-year outlook.

So, now more than ever before, ask this of yourself, your brand, and your company: Are you ready for mobile to dominate your experience with consumers? Build a strategy where a strong and long-term mobile presence is one of your top three objectives and learn how your consumers/customers/clients are––or are not––interacting with your company (or competitors) in the mobile arena. The BlackBerrys and Treos of the late 1990s and early 2000s were ahead of their time, and Apple came into the market with a new user experience that exploded into the mobile-centric ecosystem that we live in today. One has to trust Apple’s innovation (and luck) and see that mobile (tablets and smartphones) will be a significant part of our future. Are you ready?

Author: John Carew

WWDC Keynote

I don’t think most people base their lunch hours around tech announcements, but I do. I have been eagerly awaiting this event––the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC)––for weeks now. The WWDC is where Apple usually introduces software updates and new products (the iPhone first appeared during the 2007 WWDC).

Monday Apple introduced iOS6 and some of its more than 200 new features. Here are some highlights:

-Siri, the Apple darling, has gotten smarter––she can speak many new languages, will be able to  launch apps, and can now tweet for you.

-A new Do Not Disturb feature allows you to silence alerts and incoming calls for meetings or sleep.

– Apple has cut its ties with Google as far as maps are concerned, but it now offers turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic, and flyover views of the world as only Apple can.

– FaceTime will now work over cellular networks and from any Apple device.

– Apple also introduced Mountain Lion, which will be available next month for $19.99. It will fully integrate the services of iCloud, allowing users to access files from everywhere (including Notes and Reminders from all Apple devices).

-Voice dictation will also be standard in Mountain Lion––it won’t be as helpful as Siri but is useful in its own way.

-Messages are not just for the phone anymore––they can be sent from a Mac.

-Power Nap is a powerful new feature that refreshes data and allows the computer to stay up to date and back up data while sleeping.

And as far as hardware is concerned:

-The Macbook Air has been improved––the lowest model has a 1366×768 display with 1.7GHz dual-core i5, 4GB RAM, and 64GB for flash storage ($100 more will double the storage).

-The MacBook Pro has the Retina display, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and weighs only 5.6 lbs.

Author: Susan Hallinan

The Devil Is in the Details

Does your job need a perforation? Maybe a spot varnish? Does your label need consecutive numbering? What type of surface material is the label being used on? Did you remember to tell your vendor these details?

A good vendor will ask you these questions and sometimes many more. The basic list of specifications isn’t that long, but for certain products, the specifics are many. Label printing, for example, has many specifics. Face slit vs. back slit. Permanent vs. removable adhesive. Flat sheets vs. rolls. Outdoor use vs. indoor use. All of these specifications must be known at the start of the project.

The toughest part of our job is trying to “assume” we know what you need. We don’t. And if you don’t tell us, whose fault is it when the finished product is missing that vital detail? Even the best vendor might overlook asking the right question. Be as precise as you can when submitting specifications for a project. If you are not sure a particular application is necessary, ASK.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Author: Doreen Doyle

America’s Pastime in Present Time

Anyone who knows me, knows I love sports. The sport I love most above all else is baseball.  Say what you will about America’s pastime (“It’s slow.  It’s boring.  It’s old-fashioned”), but this game that originated in the late 1800’s always has and always will have a special place in my heart.  But, is the game past its prime?  Has it lost it’s luster?  Can the mystical game of Babe, Mantle, Mays, DiMaggio and Mattingly (my personal favorite) hold its own in this modern social media-driven century?  To all the naysayers let me say it can. Baseball has been making moves towards today’s world.

When I was a kid, collecting and trading baseball cards was a way to keep track of your favorite players and what they did during the past season.  It was a way for the neighborhood kids to argue over who was the better player (in my case it was Mattingly vs. Hernandez). The downside was that if your favorite player wasn’t interviewed often, you would have no idea how he went about the game you loved so much or what he did in his down time. Even worse, if you didn’t have connections, you could never meet or communicate with your favorite players. In today’s world of Facebook and Twitter, all that has changed.

One company I currently follow on Twitter is ESPN. It recently had a report that the Long Island Ducks (a baseball team in the Independent League) had signed a former relief pitcher that played for both the Mets and the Yankees.  Since I live in Long Island, I decided to “follow” the team. The Ducks immediately sent me a direct message thanking me for following them. In doing so they made me feel closer than a fan. It was as if the team actually cared and was grateful for having me. I know it sounds cliché, but the Ducks did make me feel welcome.  I regularly get updates from them on current games and how certain players are performing. It’s a great way to be up to date on the latest goings on with the club.

Twitter allows fans to follow their favorite players both past and present. If you are lucky enough, they may follow you back.  I had the luck of having the former second baseman and four-time World Series champion Chuck Knoblauch follow me before the start of the current season.  I took that opportunity to strike up a conversation with him about how much he missed the game.  Any fan of any sport can attest to the special feeling that comes when you talk to one of your favorite athletes.  More teams have encouraged their players to start Twitter accounts to give fans that special interaction. Of course, as with all forms of social media, there are restrictions on professional athletes’ and even coaches’ use of social media.

I have used Twitter to gather information during live games I have attended too. I recently went to a game where the team held a contest – if you tweeted your seat location you could get a seat upgrade. I also used Twitter during the game to get stats on players – previously you had to read about them in the next day’s paper or wait till you got home and watched the highlights on the news.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB have all banned players and coaches from tweeting during the game. Of course this didn’t stop Ozzie Guillen (then manager of the Chicago White Sox) from bashing the umpires after he got thrown out of one game back in 2011. This resulted in a hefty fine and suspension for two games. It was also the first time in the history that someone was suspended and/or fine someone for social media during the game. This illegal tweet, however, gained the manager more fans and brought more attention to his team. Goes to show that the old adage of” any press is good press” is still alive and well.

Major League Baseball as a whole uses Twitter to engage fans with trivia contests and up-to-date news and stats on teams. This gives fans like me the opportunity to gain instant access and news to brag about with fellow baseball-loving friends.

The combination of social media and sports gives fans of all ages unprecedented access while allowing for older and newer generations of fans to come together like never before. Since no one wants to be described as “slow and boring” how do you plan on staying relevant during these modern times?

Author: Charley Ruperto