Three little words

One evening a few years ago, when I was young and single (well, at least single), I arrived at my date du jour's door as planned. But my mind's eye had not planned on what my face's eyes were to espy:...

One evening a few years ago, when I was young and single (well, at least single), I arrived at my date du jour’s door as planned. But my mind’s eye had not planned on what my face’s eyes were to espy: said date with newly coiffed hair, model-like makeup, a stunning dress and dazzling jewelry dripping alluringly from neck and limbs. She looked like she’d stepped out of the pages of Vogue. And, boy, was I miffed!

My intention had been to picnic on the beach as the sun went down and, accordingly, I was attired in T-shirt, shorts and sneakers. The last thing I had planned on was stepping out in public with what passersby might interpret as an impending performance of Beauty and the Beast.

Presuming I was right as far as our plans for the evening were concerned (Why not? It’s my column), surely she was deserving of sartorial condemnation for wearing the right outfit at the wrong time, or vice-versa.

However, anyone who saw her would have thought I was out of my romantic mind for being anything but delighted. I would refer such souls to my public school English teacher, Mr. Auld.

He provided my classmates and me with a verbal formula for assessing such situations – one that, to my mind, is right up there with another three-word gem, ‘Salesmanship in print’. And Mr. Auld’s catchphase is infinitely more versatile.

His words of wisdom: circumstances alter cases.

Apply his formula to the predicament I found myself in that infamous evening and all becomes clear. If the circumstance was that my date and I had been going to the theatre, her attire would have been perfection personified. But since, according to me, the circumstance was that we were going to the beach, the fact of the case is that she was overdressed in the extreme.

I mention Mr. Auld because I was thinking of his words to the wise when writing my Jan. 3 column about lead generating direct mail packages.

Remember DAN?

One direct mail package that I reviewed was from the Digital Advertising Network (DAN). In case you haven’t read and reread that column so many times that you know it off by heart, I wrote that there was no question that DAN had sent me a handsome package of promotional material; the copy, the design and type, the photography, the production – everything was first rate. My criticism was in its usage.

As a fulfillment package to parties who had expressed some interest in their product, yes, it would certainly be impressive. But when it’s used as a lead generation vehicle? In this case my verdict was (and remains) ‘Too much information!’

However, apparently DAN didn’t create the package to generate leads. They tell me it was put together as a fulfillment piece and leave-behind, and should never have been sent unsolicited to Knight & Associates or anybody else. Under those circumstances, DAN, nice work!

Rethinking the Crandall case

In my aforementioned column, I heaped praise on the creative of the Crandall Building’s buy-a-trendy-condo DM package. It was so intriguing that I read every word and scanned every visual, even though I had and have no intention of moving from my present hearth and home.

Nevertheless, I had a gripe with their package. I wrote that it described the condos so precisely and replicated their unique ambience so well that it would eliminate too many prospects and keep traffic to a minimum.

But then, after penning my opinion, questions began to haunt me: What if they wanted traffic to be at a minimum? What if they only wanted to open their doors to people who knew exactly what to expect and were ready to sign on the dotted line? What if they would judge the package’s success by how few tile-kickers they attracted rather than by how many?

Finally deciding that the only way to exorcise my Crandall ghosts was to find out what the objective of the mailing had been, I mustered up the nerve to call one of the people who had worked on the package.

‘Did you get a ton of traffic from it?’ I enquired.

‘No,’ was the calm response.

‘But you did want to generate a ton of traffic, didn’t you?’ I asked hopefully.

‘No,’ came the same satisfied-sounding reply.

‘Don’t tell me you had limited traffic and that you’re happy about it,’ I said, praying that I’d hear the same negative response.


‘Well?’ I demanded.

‘You said not to tell you.’

Mr. Auld would tell you. If the circumstance had been that Crandall wanted traffic coming out its drainpipes, the package would be declared a failure. But since the circumstance was that they only wanted ready-to-buy prospects ringing their doorbell, it’s case closed: the Crandall mailing succeeded.

A picture-perfect exception

to one rule. An unfortunate

violation of another.

If you ran a commercial photography studio and wanted to generate some leads, and you adhered to generally accepted wisdom of direct mail success, you’d send out something short and sweet. Maybe show your prospects a sample photo or two and/or maybe list a few clients in your prospect’s business category, and then invite the reader to contact you to learn more about how wonderful you are.

But, whatever you decide to show and say, because you’re approaching prospects, you’re not going to spend a wad of money. Unless you’re a studio called ‘Roth & Ramberg’.

In January, they sent us the most impressive desk calendar I’ve received in years, featuring black-and-white portraits they’d taken of people in their neighbourhood. But it’s more than the photos that impress you.

For one, the cover of the calendar is a translucent flysheet that exudes high quality while telling the tale of the calendar’s theme. For another, they reproduced each photograph in an embossed frame, in positive form on one page and repeated in negative form on another. (I guess if you’re an optimist you may prefer to gaze at a positive photo and read a month’s dates in positive type. If you’re in a downer of a mood, you may wish to view a negative of the photo and read the calendar in reverse type.) It may not be the first time the technique has been used, but I’m sure it’s the first time it’s been used so effectively to generate leads.

But did they have to go to such expense with a prospect? In their case, I’d say yes. The circumstance is that they work out of Edmonton and they’re looking for out-of-province business. And the fact is, a lot of distant-market folks just aren’t going to consider venturing beyond their local stable of talent unless they feel certain they’re going to get something special.

After drooling over the Roth & Ramberg mailing, at least one recipient is convinced they do offer something special. But my question is: Exactly what are they offering?

I suspected Roth & Ramberg were commercial photographers (and apparently very good ones), but I don’t know that for certain, because nowhere in their mailing do they state their occupation. The closest hint is featured on an enclosed business card that uses the word ‘photoactive’. But what does that mean? ‘Radioactive’ doesn’t mean you make radios.

The only way I was able to confirm my suspicion about their raison d’etre was by visiting their Web site. But I don’t know how many prospects would go to that trouble, regardless of how impressive the Roth & Ramberg mailing is.

So while they succeeded in spades when breaking the keep-a-lead-generation-package-short-and-inexpensive rule, they surely failed when they broke another promotional rule: Tell people what you do for a living, so they know if and when to call on you.

Yes, your scribe made the effort to find out more about them, but I’m operating under a unique circumstance – writing about their mailing in a column. And, as Mr. Auld would be quick to point out, that’s one circumstance that changes the case.

Starting Feb. 28, Bob Knight’s circumstances will be changing. On that date, Knight & Associates moves offices. The toll-free number will remain the same: 1-888-684-6564. The e-mail address will become (If you’re interested in their new address, new local phone number and new fax number, send an e-mail and Bob will send you his business card.).e

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group