Thanx for writing. The job of a direct marketer is to involve the prospect totally in the product or service, the benefits and the offer. Humor or cleverness interrupts that involvement. The thread of the argument is lost as the person sits back and says, my, isn’t that clever (or funny). Very seldom does humor work when you are selling something. (Unless it is a New Yorker book of cartoons.) Charm, yes. The late Bill Jayme was a master of exuding charm and making the reader fall in love with the product (usually a magazine). Humor, no.
The Vermillion mailing. I agree with everything you wrote. The only thing missing, and the only thing that matters, is did it work? I don’t see how it could but you never know.
Shortly after your e-question arrived I got a call from Vermillion. It wasn’t in response to the column, but rather a follow-up to the mailing. “Are you in Derry, New Hampshire?” I asked and he acknowledged that he was. “But you aren’t a New Englander.” “Nah,” he said. “I’m a Limey.” I was not surprised that a Brit would be involved in this effort. With the exception of David Ogilvy and his associate, Drayton Bird, UK copywriters love metaphors, puns, humor and generally clever copy. The Vermillion sales rep said the response “has been fantastic” so far and asked me what I thought of the piece. I told him his offer was terrific but that his self-mailer did not mention any of the many reasons why digital printing would be of enormous value to direct marketers (e.g., turnaround time, testing, personalization on the fly, economies of small print runs, no press set-up time, etc.). What’s more, the piece did not even announce that it had been printed digitally, thus laying to rest the shibboleth that digital printing is not as good as offset. Instead it talked cars and test-drives. I suggested that even though it apparently was successful it should probably be tested against the work of a direct response copy professional.