Increase Your Creative Wins (1,147 words)
by Dean Rieck
A famous chess player once revealed to me how he wins so many games, often against far more experienced players. What he said was this: "I try to avoid making mistakes."
I've never forgotten that bit of wisdom, and routinely give similar advice to clients and people who contact me wanting to improve their direct mail programs. The first thing I tell them is this: "Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance."
What sort of mistakes? There are a few particularly stupid things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time. Here are seven to watch out for.
Allowing a trigger-happy "general" agency within killing range.
A large chemical company sent me a self-mailer to review. It was trying to generate inquiries for a special program, but hadn't produced the sort of response they wanted.
I could tell by looking at the piece that a general agency had created it. The copy was cutesy, full of pun-heavy, meaningless headlines. The design was garish, with wild colors and hard-to-read type styles. The offer was hidden. The response elements were buried. The central message was disjointed and unclear.
My review consisted of two words: "It stinks."
My solution: "Do it again."
The company said it could design the piece if I gave it some new copy and specific design direction, so that's what I did. But when I got samples a couple months later, I was shocked. The copy had been hacked to death. The design had reverted to its original hideousness. The result? More lousy results.
Bottom line: Most general agencies simply can't do effective direct advertising.
Having the artist design the piece first, and the writer fill in the blanks.
Once an agency sent me a mockup of a 3-D mailing to announce a trade show. The copy areas were indicated by neat little gray boxes here and there in the design. My job: fill in the blanks.