Zimmerman Agency's Caroline Zimmerman on the Evolution of the Voucher
Boldt: How do you respond to the criticism of the voucher for its limited design and copy?
Zimmermann: One of the criticisms of the voucher is that it’s so plain. One of the criticisms of sweepstakes was that everyone is caught up in the money, but P.S., they are ordering. Same thing has happened about the voucher for a different reason. Different people are criticizing it, and the salespeople started to have trouble with it and wanted to do more to it to make it unique to each magazine.
So I started adding components that would give it more personality from the publication but yet wouldn’t destroy what the voucher was about. It wasn’t easy, initially, because you can’t just bring over the stuff from an editorial package. It was a matter of developing the kinds of components that felt right in a voucher, which is why you see so many buckslips and trifold brochures (usually the petite variety).
Boldt: Are there components that should not be in the voucher?
Zimmermann: The most difficult component but the most risky to put in the voucher is the letter. In spite of the fact that magazines are about reading, most people don’t want to read [their direct mail]; they want to scan. The letter forces you to read. You can still put in a letter that screams out, “Read me!” but most times it will reduce response.
That being said, one of my favorite letters for Kiplinger’s (that I didn’t write) was called “My Crazy Rich Aunt,” written by Richard Armstrong, and it was so good that I had to find a way to get it into the voucher. So I updated the letter and made it work in the voucher. And guess what? It really increased response. So don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.