Famous Last Words - Jayme
By Denny Hatch
Bill Jayme: In His Own Words
Note: Bill Jayme's first promotional effort, "The Cool Friday" letter for LIFE, was reproduced in the October 2000 issue of TM. This is Jayme's last promotional effort, written for The New York Times, which failed to run it. —D.H.
Bill Jayme, a direct mail copywriter prominent in magazine publishing circles, died in his home in Sonoma, CA on May 18. The cause of death was emphysema. He was 75.
Over the past 30 years, Jayme and his partner, Finnish-born graphics designer Heikki Ratalahti, created the mailing packages ("junk mail") that successfully launched more than three dozen major, upscale publications in the United States and Europe, including Smithsonian, Mother Jones, New York, Home, Southern Living, Health, Food & Wine, Worth, Air & Space, Civilization, and, in France, Paris-Hebdo and Les Hommes de l'Expansion. Just before retiring in 1996, they also developed the subscriptions invitations that launched the elegant new American food magazine, Saveur.
Their packages stood out in the mail. Graphics were stylish and inviting. Copy and concepts were compelling, often breaking new ground. To launch New York magazine, for example, they devised a sweepstakes that awarded not cash, or cars, or Caribbean cruises, but prizes reflecting the new magazine's personality and passions. The top winner was invited to dine at Gracie Mansion so he or she could tell the mayor how the city ought to be run.
To launch Worth, a magazine about making money, they asked whether the prospect had considered the downside of becoming filthy rich, like being expected to subscribe to the opera, and being required to go. For Bon Appetit there were instructions for making Sangria, "the perfect thing to sit back with and sip while you consider this invitation." To enlarge the readership of Psychology Today, the duo made up a personality quiz that asked, among other questions, "Do you close the bathroom door even when you're the only one home?"
Jayme was born in Pittsburgh, PA, and educated at Princeton. Near the end of World War II the army assigned him to head the staff of a division newspaper in Texas, and the young recruit discovered he enjoyed working with words. In his off-time he wrote short stories. "I Will Please Come to Order" was picked up by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and later chosen by Anthony Boucher for his annual "best of the year" anthology.
After the war, Time-Life hired Jayme to create promotional mailings and develop TV documentaries. The CBS Radio Network named him its head copy editor. Word was getting around.
He began supplying light humor pieces to magazines like New York and Harper's. Esquire engaged him to overhaul all of its promotional materials to reflect the magazine's new postwar seriousness. No more Petty or Varga girls. No more leering Esky.
He also wrote two books. "Know Your Toes," co-authored with Roderick Cook, was a collection of useful mnemonics for children. "The Other Half of the Egg," written with Helen McCully and Jacques Pepin, provided recipes for using leftover yolks and whites. He wrote the libretto for "Carry Nation," Douglas Moore's opera about the well-known Prohibitionist that had its premier in 1966 at the University of Kansas, which had commissioned the piece to mark its centenary. Subsequently, noteworthy productions were staged by the San Francisco Opera and the New York City Opera, which recorded the work.
In 1970 Jayme moved the two-man firm from New York, first to San Francisco, and then 46 miles north to Sonoma, a village in the wine country.
They continued working together exactly as they had in Manhattan. The only difference now was that clients came to see them, instead of the other way around. And come they did. Established magazines like New York. Growing publications like Utne Reader. Promising new start-ups like Cooking Light. So many and so varied that The New York Times dispatched East Coast journalist Randall Rothenberg to Sonoma to write "Junk Mail's Top Dogs" for The Times Magazine. It ran with a full-page, color photograph of Jayme and Ratalahti perched atop a mountain of mailings they had created down through the years.
Jayme was a member of The Century Association and a past member of the Player's. During his years in New York, he was also a director of the Municipal Art Society and served on the Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art. He is survived by a brother, J. Philip Jayme, who lives in Wainscott, NY.
Denny Hatch, consulting editor, is a freelance copywriter and consultant, founder of Who's Mailing What! (now Inside Direct Mail) and former editor in chief of Target Marketing, is the author of "Method Marketing" and "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.methodmarketing.com