Editor's Notebook: Beware Stock Photos!
Like your work, my job requires me to think carefully about how I can give my product a unique thumbprint to help it stand out from other direct marketing publications. And, like you, I work with my art director, Harish Ullal, to get customers to stop and spend some time with my product's copy. Part of the challenge in creating a strong, consistent visual message for us comes in the selection of the right stock photography to invite the eye but not evoke the same graphic brand of any of our competitors' efforts.
So I understand your frustration in finding unique images to illustrate your
direct mail campaignsespecially when you're in a crowded marketplace. But when consumers are expressing frustration with both the amount of advertising directed at them and the lack of targeting in these campaigns, competing visual cues could add to the clutter and confusion.
Case in point: Citibank has been using an intriguing message platform for its Diamond Preferred Rewards Visa card product. The outer envelope features what I think is a powerful headline for today's it's-all-about-me consumer: "Movie buff? Foodie? Sports fan? Get rewards that are so you." To support this platform, an enclosed brochure depicts five sample customers and the way each one would spend his or her rewards. The reason I know these are not real customersbesides the fact that they're too styled to be simple snapshotsis because the photo of the do-it-yourself woman has been used extensively by Country Homes & Gardens Book Club for the cover image on its digest-style self-mailer.
I realize that I scrutinize direct mail for a living, and so would be more likely to make the connection between these two mailings. But Country Homes & Gardens Book Club easily could have mailed into a prospect's home on the same day as Citibank. Who's to say whether a prospect would notice, but one who did would certainly feel that the Citibank message wasn't quite truthful.
So, my message this month is to be careful when using stock photography. Don't rely on old image collections, and take advantage of Web sites that let you check the usage on an image. An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of orders.
P.S. The Who's Mailing What! Archive is getting ready to relaunch its online database, which now boasts a collection of about 5,000 package scansand growing! While these changes take place, new Inside Direct Mail subscribers and those who have never logged into the site will need to contact the Archive's customer service line at (800) 777-8074 to gain access. I'll have more details on these changes next month!