Three-way brochure targets Lincoln owner

Client: Ford Motor Company of CanadaProduct: Lincoln models (Mark VII; Continental; Town Car) Agency: Vickers & Benson DirectRather than produce a separate brochure for each Lincoln model to be featured in a recent owner-loyalty mailing, Toronto-based Vickers & Benson Direct designed...

Client: Ford Motor Company of Canada

Product: Lincoln models (Mark VII; Continental; Town Car)

Agency: Vickers & Benson Direct

Rather than produce a separate brochure for each Lincoln model to be featured in a recent owner-loyalty mailing, Toronto-based Vickers & Benson Direct designed a brochure that could be folded three different ways to feature on the front cover the model owned by the customer.

‘It was easy as hell to design,’ says Mike McCormick, agency president and creative director, who credits Toronto-based letter shop Yorkville Press with doing a great job on a difficult project.

‘[But] it was difficult as hell to execute,’ McCormick says.

The brochure, together with a letter offering Lincoln owners $1,000 off their next purchase, was mailed to about 20,000 customers.

While he declined to be more specific, McCormick says response to the offer was ‘spectacular, about twice the norm for this kind of mailing.’

Q. Why was this piece successful? What made it work?

A. The personality behind it. The fact that a human being had touched it. The fact that it was not the almighty Ford Motor Company writing to thousands of people. It was one person at Ford writing to one person at home.

Of course, the $1,000 offer had a lot to do with it.

Q. On what level were you trying to generate a response – an emotional or intellectual level?

A. It was a combination. Automobiles are emotional, but deep down the decision to buy a car is a practical one. There are a lot of consumers out there who love the vehicle, but it’s just not practical for them to go out and buy one.

Q. Excluding your own work, what have been some of the best examples of direct mail?

A. The Imitrex program just knocked me out. That’s why I voted for it as the top direct mail package [at the RSVP Awards.]

Some of the stuff that cibc is doing is very good.

One of the things I would like to see investigated more in awards is the use of strategy.

People who are not in direct marketing tend to look at the creative, rather than anything else.

Most of the thinking behind direct mail is invisible, but it’s complicated as hell. I’ve been a copywriter, creative director and designer for a long time, and that’s the easy part.

When we plan mailings, we spend very little time on the creative, or rather, it’s the last thing we do. The first thing we do is look at the objectives.

You have to write a clear and relevant strategy for achieving those objectives, and once you get that done, the rest is as easy as pie.

If everything you do is on strategy and under budget, it can’t be wrong. The sure sign of an amateur is someone that thinks tactically immediately.

Q. How important is personalizing the letter?

A. There are two things there. One is personalization and the other is personal.

You can write a very personal letter, without personalizing it, without using the person’s name. You can still write a ‘dear customer’ letter that’s personal. Both are very important, but of the two, I’ll take personal any day.

Q. Do you favor long or short letters?

A. I favor letters that are as long as it takes to say what they have to say. I’ve written one that is 11 pages. I’ve seen some as long as 60.

There’s no point trying to be clever. Just tell them what you’ve got to tell them and put in all kinds of reasons why they need this – the features, advantages, benefits.

Q. People are bombarded with direct mail offers every day. How do you make yours stand out from the rest?

A. That’s where the creative spark comes in.

I’ve heard people say they don’t want any graphics on the envelope, because they want to make it look like a personal letter.

I think that’s kind of silly because it’s fooling people. When they realize it’s advertising, they are mad at you.

The real job of an envelope is to get opened. You have to set the tone and the personality on the envelope.

That’s one of the things we do and do very well.

I did a program years ago for International Correspondence School.

It was a very simple envelope with seven words on the front – ‘Knowledge and the skills to use it’ – and they’ve never been able to beat it. The people who got that knew what it was about.

I did a mailing for Tourism Canada. We were trying to get Texans to come to Canada.

I got a picture of a big moose, looking straight on. The headline read: ‘Got any of these in Texas?’

That’s how you make it stand out. You make them want to open the envelope.

Q. How hard should you press for a sale in a direct mail offer?

A. Sometimes you’re not trying to make a sale. What you’re pressing for is a response, whatever it may be. Sometimes it’s lead generation. It depends what you’re doing.

When I was writing stuff for Maclean Hunter, to get people to subscribe to Maclean’s or Chatelaine, we’d press pretty hard. With Ford, the (long-term) relationship is more important.

Q. Do you see direct mail primarily as a support for mass media marketing or as a stand-alone medium?

A. Absolutely stand-alone. If advertising mandates are going to drive direct marketing, you are going to go broke.

Q. How are the rules changing in direct mail?

A. Ten years ago, we couldn’t do the things we are doing now. We are learning to tighten our targetting tremendously, we can track responses at the retail level. Our database power is extraordinary.

But a lot of people are using 1980s thinking on 1992 technology. It’s kind of like having an Amish farmer drive a Lamborghini.

Q. If you look at the winners of this year’s RSVP Awards, what trends do you see creatively?

A. There are no [creative] trends that I can see. The big trend is what technology is going to do to us, in terms of our targetting.