Direct Marketing Has Funny Words

There are some ugly words in the word of direct marketing, and I learned them last week.

Onsert, for example. It’s an object which is glued to the exterior of a magazine rather than being inserted between its pages. Or squinch analysis, which refers to balancing production cost and potential sales value of every square inch of a catalog. There are others, but I won’t horrify you.

Direct Marketing also full of weird, special definitions of things. For example, “Dimensional” means anything in a box or tube, while “flat” means not only flat, but also larger than normal envelopes. Envelopes don’t count as “flat” – they’re just envelopes.

And then there are the ugly facts. Things like the fact that all those advertising techniques you hate persist because they work. Or that the average turnover in a call center is 90% every 90 days.

Still, there’s some good stuff out there. I learned that Planned Parenthood has had a dramatic surge in donations recently, simply because Sarah Palin is practically doing their fund raising for them by this point. They barely have to send a letter, because the need for their services has been made so real by Palin’s candidacy.

We saw a prize-winning mailer was an oversized postcard with a small hole in the middle. The front side said “Can you fit your arm through this hole?” On the back: “A child dying of starvation can.” It was a mailer from Doctors Without Borders, raising money to bring medical care and food to children in Darfur. How many lives did they save with that campaign?

Was it more than our class presenter killed by running a series of Virginia Slims dimensional promos in the 80s?

There’s a lot of ugly business out there, and not all of it is dimensional tobacco promos and the hot new catalog from Landmines-R-Us. Some of it is collectibles.

Other things are just murky. We spent about twenty minutes examining the emotional appeal of a bank that had a multi-pronged campaign advertising home equity loans. Of course, many of those great loans are now in default. Here’s a compelling campaign for undergraduate credit cards… an area that combines irresponsible marketing with irresponsible lending and irresponsible spending to create financial nightmares for people in their twenties – not to mention plenty of opportunities for identity theft.

Still, it’s not the fault of the marketers if the credit approval standards drop, or if students rack up ten grand in credit card debt at 18% without really thinking about the interest payments (oh, they’re aware of them, they just ignore them.)

Is it?

One thought on “Direct Marketing Has Funny Words”

  1. Having worked in an ad agency, I am all too familiar with these concepts. Having been a vegetarian working on a major fast-food chain account (McAwkward, to say the least), I’ve survived first-hand the Dementor-like soul-sucking that is marketing.

    Advertising pays well. (And they throw kick-ass parties.) But it doesn’t pay well enough.

    Still, advertisers only do what they can get away with, or what there’s advertising demand for. So while there may be some fault with the advertisers for courting high-risk credit card customers, they did so only because the banks were willing to throw them large buckets o’ cash to do just that. Advertising is a symptom, not a cause.

    Still, this doesn’t excuse the proliferation of advertising spaces. Ads on airline tray tables? Check. Ads on baby strollers? Check. I suspect within a century, they’ll be displaying ads on the moon.


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