Broken Line, Solid Practice

Advertising, Copywriting, Direct Marketing
Historically, the prototypical direct response ad has always included an order form, which is invariably surrounded by a broken line. To those who don't respond by phone or – today – computer, such a plain and unmistakable border tells the audience to get out the scissors, detach along perforation and mail before said offer expires. Even if there’s no form to complete, coupon to save, or paper to shuffle in any way whatsoever, it’s still an incredibly strong call to action. It’s Pavlovian, really, consistent with the laws of the conditioned reflex. But evidently all this is no secret to the marketing team at Boston Sports Clubs. I can’t tell you how many ads of theirs I’ve seen framed by broken solid – as opposed to dotted – lines. For…
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Recycling References to Popular Culture

Advertising, Copywriting, Direct Marketing
Before you attend your next brainstorm meeting, I have a little homework assignment for you. Watch a few hours of television. Take in a couple of good movies. Listen to some talk radio. Punch up The Lycos 50. Then grab the latest issues of People, Time and Rolling Stone magazines, and read them cover to cover. I know, all that’s going to seem like information overload to some of you (and, to the others, perhaps a disdainful exercise in futility), but if you can stomach all the mind candy, the ideas will come rolling off your tongue. You’ll recycle a few references to popular culture and have everyone at that meeting – and, ultimately, your customers – singing your praises. Trust me. Using current events and popular culture to call…
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The Brilliance to Which We Aspire

Copywriting, Direct Marketing
Tuesday, June 29, 2004 – Thumbing through the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine last week, an ad for eBay Motors -- smack, dab in between the “Correspondence” and “Rock & Roll” sections -- stopped me dead in my tracks. An extraordinarily simple, no-frills composition, it uses a story about “Brothers John and Tom [who] want a great way to sell their cars” to illustrate the benefits of peddling wheels on eBay versus the old standby, the classifieds. After seven days, John, who uses eBay, “sells his car for a great price,” while Tom, who went the old-school route, finds his “ad is used as litter box lining.” It’s hip, funny and irreverent, sure, but it’s also textbook in formula, drawing on a case study of two young men and…
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Planting the Seeds for Bountiful Results

Copywriting, Direct Marketing
Monday, May 10, 2004 – An article I wrote, 10 Ways to Grow Your Audience with Direct Mail, was just published in Perfect Register, the newsletter for employees of International Business Systems (IBS), Inc., and their associates in the business community. I am grateful to IBS (thank you, Aleka and George) for asking me to write this article, as it gave me the chance to talk shop with an audience of more than 1,000 readers. And while plans call for us to post the article on our own Web site at Yellowfin Direct Marketing, I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t incorporate at least a piece of it in A Fine Kettle of Fish. The original article ran in the vicinity of 1,500 words, but I won’t be going…
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Salesman, Fundraiser, Actor, Mystic

Copywriting
Thursday, March 25, 2004 – A growing percentage of our business here is rooted in the world of higher education, either helping development officers raise funds or working with alumni associations to grow their membership files. If you’re familiar with agency parlance, you’ll know what I mean when I say this is one of our strongest vertical markets, an offering we’ve already established as one of a handful of our core competencies. We’ve run successful campaigns so far for clients such as Ohio University, the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University, just to name a few, which has led to a number of new engagements recently, including the University of Houston and Florida State University. As a creative guy, I couldn’t be happier with these assignments. Each one is…
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The School of “Emo” Copywriting

Copywriting, Direct Marketing
Thursday, March 18, 2004 – In the latest edition of the I-Copywriting Digest, “moderator” Nick Usborne suggested that online marketers are becoming less and less personal online. “Why,” he asked, “are we retreating into that familiar territory of corporate-speak, when we would do better to step forward and touch our readers one by one?” I must say his commentary struck a chord with me, as I’ve always been partial to the school of "emo" copywriting. Show some enthusiasm. Express your emotions. Don’t be afraid to open up to your audience and connect with them personally. They’ll respect you for it. And respond affirmatively. That’s what I say. And that’s what I did say -- for the most part -- in a letter I wrote back to Nick (agreeing with him…
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