Action Johnson

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

Every weekend I receive PARADE as an insert in my Philadelphia Inquirer. Being a direct marketing junkie, I scan it for the bright, busy full-page coupon ads from:

  • Bradford Exchange: Disney and Elvis plates and figurines, coins and Thomas Kinkade artistic kitsch
  • Lenox: Sculptures and Christmas ornaments
  • MBI/Easton Press: Sports collectibles, die-cast model cars and leather bound books

These ads are colorful with powerful offers, great graphics and immediately involving copy. They are masterpieces of their genre.

It was with astonishment that I came across a black-and-white full-page ad in PARADE looking for all the world like a personal note from a member of the Johnson family that makes well-known household products—Windex, Ziploc, Drano, Saran wrap, Fantastik and Pledge furniture wax to name a few. The body copy is set in a courier font that looks like it was generated on an ancient office Remington. At the bottom is a faded snapshot—presumably of the author—that could be the product of Kodak Brownie Box Camera from the 1930s. 

You can read the entire text of the ad in the section titled "IN THE NEWS" to the right. And if you click on the illustration in the mediaplayer, you’ll see what the ad looks like.

Running a retro black-and-white ad amid PARADE's brash color is what they call in show business "casting against type."

The question: Is this a smart way for an advertiser to spend his money?

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