Ugly Works In Selling! (Except When It’s Your House)
The high priest of ugly advertising design was Fred Briesmeister of Greystone Press. Above is one of his masterpieces from the 1960s.
A reader coming upon this monstrosity in a magazine or newspaper is stopped cold. The first thing you see is the word “FREE” inside a giant arrow. The arrow points to a free book.
When the eye hits the book cover, it travels down the spine where it picks up a human hand cradling the bottom of the book.
The fingers of the hand point upward, sending the eye into a mass of jarring interruptions — subheads, decks, mini-headlines, short paragraphs and the Holy of Holies: the Order Coupon.
No gray walls of type here. These bite-sized short paragraphs are today’s equivalent of the text or tweet, short, intense, easily digestible.
In all of his promotions, Briesmeister always showed the free book slightly larger than life and the human hand slightly smaller. This design trick said to the eye: “THIS FREE BOOK IS HUGE. AND IT’S REALLY, REALLY FREE! NO RISK! NO OBLIGATION!”
In all this seeming mess, if the reader gets bored for even a second, something nearby is sure recapture attention and rekindle the excitement.
For the record, these ads sold tons of books and made Greystone owner John Stevenson enormously rich.
For a brief history of this direct marketing genre, check out Continuity Marketing: Pleasures and Pitfalls by yours truly.
Selling a House Requires Absolute Neatness
“Neatness rejects involvement,” said my very first mentor, Lew Smith — later executive vice president of the Wunderman Agency.
Peggy and I are downsizing from a five-story house (four flights of stairs) to an apartment on one floor. The advice from realtors, top interior designers and house “stagers”:
For example, here is our third-floor den. For 22 years the shelf at left was filled with tchotchkes — gizmos, doodads and a dizzying gallery of little framed personal photographs.