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In Praise of Non-workaholics
September 13, 2007

One of the most shadowy, behind-the-scenes characters of recent history was a sixth cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a plain little spinster lady named Margaret (Daisy) Suckley (rhymes with “book-lee”), whose Hudson River mansion is being renovated. Suckley died in 1991 in her 100th year. For years she maintained she had nothing to add to what had been written about Roosevelt and his presidency. But when her house was cleaned out, a suitcase of letters was found under her bed, and to the astonishment of historians and family members, Suckley and Roosevelt had a long-term and very close relationship. Although the words are

Insert Media Buying Guide: Thinking Outside of the Mailbox
September 1, 2007

Given the howls of agony coming from direct marketers feeling the sharp stab of the recent postage rate hike—not to mention the confusion over the new shape-based pricing system—now is a good time to look at a classic form of direct response marketing overlooked by many: inserts. There are several different types of inserts—including statement stuffers, package inserts and catalog bind-ins—but for now, let’s focus on newspaper FSIs. FSI is short for “free-standing insert,” which are those colorful brochures that fall out of newspapers. They offer a cornucopia of stuff—everything from grocery specials to sales on electronics, gardening and remodeling products and services, low-cost check reprint

Never Ever Take Your Eye off the USP!
March 21, 2007

Last week I wrote about the failed petition drive to get an amendment to the Philadelphia City Charter on the May 5 primary ballot. The premise: no casino could be built within 1,500 feet of any school, home, house of worship, playground, public pool, library, or civic center. Needed were the valid, notarized signatures of 20,000 registered voters. Of the 27,254 signatures collected, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that fewer than 7,000 were valid. No one bothered to get ahold of the voter registration list. Do-gooders went forth to round up signatures from anybody and everybody. Put in direct marketing terms, it was the equivalent

When Bad Ideas Fly—II
January 11, 2007

The 139-word Bloomberg News release—that Pinnacle Entertainment is selling shares for casino funding—ends on a sour note. Pinnacle lost out in its bid for a slot machine parlor in Philadelphia to the proprietors of the largest casino complex in the world, Foxwoods, which is owned and operated by Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot tribe. The new Foxwoods Casino—slot machines only—that won the license, will be sited on the west bank of the Delaware River, roughly 1-1/2 miles from our 1817 row house in South Philadelphia. My neighbor, novelist-actor Steve Zettler, wrote a letter to The Philadelphia Inquirer that oozed sanctimony. “It goes beyond the obvious

Desperate Times for General Ad Agencies
November 9, 2006

The idea that advertising agencies are recommending campaigns based on humor—and marketers are going along with it—is an act of desperation. At the end of this issue is an illustration from an upcoming Campbell’s Soup commercial that urges consumers to “Make some holiday magic.” It depicts the branch of an evergreen tree reaching through an open window and grabbing some green bean casserole. The viewer will think, “My isn’t that cute and clever,” and remember the gag, but not the Campbell Soup. Be well-mannered, but don’t be a clown. People don’t buy from bad-mannered salesmen, and research has shown that they don’t buy from

The New Robber Barons
November 2, 2006

In the late 1970s, I was hired to write a membership mailing for Comp-U-Card, a Stamford, Conn. organization that claimed to have built “a data base of price and product information on approximately 60,000 brand name products.” Consumers could tap into this wealth of information and presumably save many times the $25 membership fee. Goods were shipped directly from wholesalers to the customer. I met briefly with the president, Walter A. Forbes, who was good-looking, articulate and very intense. At one point in our meeting, he took a phone call and asked me to step outside, which I did. When I returned, Forbes told me that

The Unforgiving Internet
September 6, 2005

Editors as chumps and four lives ruined Vol. 1 Issue #28 IN THE NEWS CARBONDALE, Ill. - Kodee Kennings' story was pure gold. For nearly two years, the motherless 8-year-old spoke and wrote movingly of her struggle to deal with her soldier father being shipped off to fight in Iraq, and Southern Illinois University's student newspaper chronicled her thoughts in its pages. But there was no Kodee Kennings, and the elaborate hoax exposed Friday left The Daily Egyptian embarrassed. --Jim Suhr "Series is exposed as hoax, retracted by student paper" Associated Press, Aug. 29, 2005

Market Focus - New Movers
May 1, 2005

At one point or another, everyone is a new mover. Whether it's striking out on your own from the family home and into that first apartment, or moving up to a single-family residence with your spouse and new baby, or trading in that empty nest for a chic condo in a warmer climate—it's not often that you find a life-stage event that touches so many consumers' lives. Every month—in fact every week—there are new movers packing up boxes in one locale, only to put down roots in another, be it two blocks away or on the other coast of the United States.

Merchandising with Rich Media
February 1, 2005

By Ken Burke Increasing numbers of consumers are discovering the joys of fast broadband connections and rich media Web sites. Their expectations—and the dollar amount in their shopping carts—are on the rise. Here, we'll examine practical ways for you to take advantage of the fantastic merchandising opportunities presented by the increases in broadband adoption. Why design for broadband? Simply put, shoppers using broadband buy more—about 10 percent to 27 percent more, according to a June 2004 study from Forrester Research. They also expect more from your Web site. Forrester indicates that broadband users view more pages, see more images, use more interactive tools,

E-commerce Link: Show and Sell
August 1, 2004

Add flexibility to your online sales presentation with on-th-fly image generation Images sell. A Web site that actively uses its image assets as a merchandising tool has a distinct advantage in generating sales. Fortunately for online marketers, new dynamic imaging technologies let you use your images far more flexibly than ever before, vastly increasing the effectiveness of your online merchandising. These technologies allow you to create any number of high-quality images, place them anywhere on your site, and capitalize on your Web site data to customize them for any merchandising need. You can even personalize them according to your customer data. This is