Direct mail



As a child, did you ever imagine that you were part of a secret society with its own code and even a special handshake? Everyone wants to be part of something elite, and apparently wheat and barley farmers are no exception. Last summer, agriculture business Syngenta Crop Protection Canada wanted to get the word out about Axial, a new herbicide that could be used on both types of grain crops to kill a variety of weeds. Previously, farmers had to use a variety of products to get the job done. Sold at a premium and in limited quantity, Axial is an exclusive product – which led to the insight for a posh direct marketing campaign created by Bos Toronto.

About 1,500 farmers who had been identified as top-tier, progressive growers received a kit in the mail. The luxe paper, gold ink, embossing and wax seal revealed an invitation to join the ‘No Compromise Club’ with membership guaranteeing them a supply of Axial. The package included a leather wallet containing a card with a ‘member’s only’ code which they could enter on to claim a gentlemanly gift of their choice, such as a leather-bound poker set. Not too shabby.

‘We thought it would be really interesting to talk to these farmers in a way they’ve never been spoken to before by creating this exclusive society for them to belong to,’ says Gary Watson, co-CD at Bos. ‘You can imagine a farmer opens his mailbox and there’s this piece from a fictitious club inviting him to become a member. It was very slick.’

Farm supply retailers also received an elegant dark wood box embossed with the club’s seal and Axial’s logo in gold containing brochures and a wall plaque, which could be used as a POS display.

The campaign garnered a 53% response rate, exceeding expectations by 200%. Axial sold out in a matter of weeks and advance orders for next season were generated. And all over western Canada, farmers were spotted giving each other sly, knowing looks and secret handshakes (or so we would assume).


The British Design and Art Direction (D&AD) Awards set out to answer an age-old question: how many creatives does it take to make an oversized pencil? The response: it depends on their puzzle-solving and/or sewing skills.

The awards, which celebrate global advertising and design brilliance, employed Taxi Toronto to make an unusual call for entries. Inspired by the idea that the coveted Pencil award isn’t easy to win, but – with the right idea – it’s possible, Taxi created two direct mail pieces that weren’t easy to assemble (but possible with sufficient brainpower and perseverance).

‘The biggest challenge from a creative perspective is, how do you come up with a concept that creative people will find interesting?’ says Taxi CD Dave Watson. ‘It’s almost like doing a magic trick for magicians.’

Knowing they had some socks to knock off, Taxi created a handcrafted puzzle made out of sustainable wood, sent out to 500 select recipients around the world in over 34 countries. When assembled, the puzzle formed a 3D pencil the size and shape of the actual D&AD award. The other mailing was an elaborate sewing pattern sent to 80,000 people in 60 countries. It was printed on thin paper resembling the tissue on which actual sewing patterns are drawn, and it also reflected the measurements of the award.

Watson says that the overall concept was inspired by artist Robyn Love, a Canadian based in Manhattan, who creates hand-knitted works of art and places them over different edifices across North America. Taxi got Love involved by having her knit a giant pencil on top of a water tower on Broadway in New York City. A second live installation was placed in London, U.K.’s Trafalgar Square where artist Miwa Takabayashi created an oversized origami pencil.

The ‘Make it a Pencil’ campaign delivered. A full 75% of recipients who received the puzzle mailer entered work to nab an actual Pencil at the 46th award show on June 11 this year. The rest are likely still sitting on the floors of their offices surrounded by wood pieces with permanent looks of confusion on their faces.

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