February 2005 - Putting It in Print

10 tips can put you on the road to successful direct response print marketing

By David Lustig

Okay, let’s get one thing straight. Advertising-regardless of type, medium, size or format-must be done correctly or not at all. No matter how hot the product, how sizzling the idea, how scorching the thought, poorly planned and executed advertising will become just a fruitless exercise in tossing away money with little prospect of anticipated return. Advertising must be executed with thought, care and planning.

At first thought, such comments may seem woefully simplistic in approach and rather obvious. Yet, we still find examples of products marketed badly. To help combat such behavior a number of leading advertising firms share some of their best tips to effective print advertising campaigns in direct response (DR) marketing. Interestingly, the answers on any particular question are not all the same, with various companies emphasizing different aspects of a sales campaign. More importantly, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are all fundamentally basic and sound DR advertising principles.

1. What are some common mistakes that are made in direct response print advertising?
“Placing an ad in a publication that cannot supply you with a copy of the publication,” says Nancy Lazkani, president and CEO of Icon Media Direct Inc. of Sherman Oaks, Calif. “Also,” she continues, “shopping rates between agencies and publications. Publications are very savvy and will not give competitive rates for a client that has a rate history with it. Advertisers can actually prevent themselves from getting competitive rates if they’ve accepted a higher rate in the past.”

The ad copy must be strong enough to instigate a gut reaction among readers, which will entice them to buy the product.

Other examples Lazkani gives include not tracking results. “Clients should take full advantage of the direct response opportunity by tracking via telephone, Web, mail-in, et al, to weigh whether the publication is a profitable means of advertisement.”

Jennifer Nading, print director of Synergixx LLC in Glassboro, N.J., believes one of the biggest mistakes is not finding out how the ad performed. “You cannot truly evaluate the response to a print ad unless you accurately tag it with a unique 800 number,” she says.

Celia De Dios, director of sales and marketing for Manhattan Media Services in New York City has another thought on common mistakes. “The headline is not captivating enough, the offer is not strong enough and the advertiser has priced the product too high.”

Jeff Small, president of Strategic Media Inc. in Portland, Maine, says, “Often times, advertisers try to provide too much information in the ad, which can be overwhelming to the reader and lead to a lower response.”

2. How does DR print differ from general print advertising?
“Regular print advertising is about branding; you want to nail home the company name and the image of the product, so the consumer will remember you the next time they go shopping,” explains Synergixx’s Nading. DR print ads are about instigating a gut reaction to make the reader feel the need to call and ‘order now!’”

“Response to DR print ads is tracked and used to determine the success of the ad by publication,” adds Icon Media’s Lazkani. “General print advertising does not have the advantage of gauging profitability per publication, per insertion.”

De Dios of Manhattan Media Services says a DR print campaign is where the potential customer can order the product through an 800 number, Website or mail-in.

3. How is response to DR ads tracked?
Small and Nading believe one of the best ways to track response is through a unique 800 number. So does De Dios, who, along with Nading, feels that adding a key code on an ad can be useful, so when customers call to order, an operator will always ask for the key code. Lazkani also contends that a mail-in order form is a useful tool, as are Websites where each response is tracked electronically.

4. How does the agency determine the types of publications in which the ads should run?
“You should run in publications that are read by your demographic,” says Nading. “You should also run a test that is appropriate to your budget. If you have only $5,000 to do the test, it’s better to test your message with fewer ads rather than blow the entire budget on one.”

“The key is determining which publication to run in as research,” says Lazkani. “Some publications may seem like a good fit for a product, but the proof is really in the numbers. Our approach to any campaign is to run queries in our research database and start narrowing the publications down to those that index high within our target demographic and those that have proven results.”

“Past performance is the best tool,” says Small. “When choosing the best publications, we look for a low CPM and the history of the publication with specific category response rate.”

5. How much should a direct marketer expect to budget for DR print?
“This amount varies for each campaign and the goals the client has,” says Small. “If the goal is to build a campaign with daily publications, the budget will be a lot less than going straight to magazines. A direct marketer needs to budget for several versions of copy and enough publications to get a good sampling to make sound judgments from the gathered data.”

“Budgets for DR print can vary widely depending on the client’s goals and the type of product or service being advertised,” says Lazkani. “The rationale and strategy for each print campaign takes the actual product into consideration and molds this into the client’s goals and budgets. Some clients allocate only 10 to 15 percent of their advertising budget to print, while others assign as much as 50 to 75 percent. A children’s product, for example, may have a different approach than a household product, thus requiring different percentages of budget allocation and seasonal placement.”

6. What size ads are the most effective?
“Effective ad sizes vary depending on the product or service you are selling,” continues Lazkani. “For example, a children’s toy would require much less copy than a home loan service. The key to determining ad size is to effectively catch the reader’s attention with the amount of space available. If your ad requires a lot of copy, you would want to increase your ad size to a full page or spread so the reader is not overwhelmed by the amount of information. If little or no explanation is needed, the advertiser can get just as much response from a well-placed one-half or one-third page ad for a fraction of the cost.”

Put another way, Nading says, “For direct response, a successful ad is one which allows you to clearly state your message.” De Dios makes it even more definitive when asked which size ad is the most effective. “7×10, standard magazine size,” she suggests Small, however, feels advertisers can find significant success with one-quarter-page ads, which he says, are effective with proper layout.

OxiClean utilizes the DRTV medium as well as DR print marketing.

7. Should a DR print campaign come before or after a DRTV campaign?
“Your print audience is different from your TV audience,” says Nading, “so your advertising can run independently.” Some products, she adds, do not cross platforms, while others support each other. Which should go first should be discussed in the evaluation process.

“We encourage an advertiser to do the campaign simultaneously,” says De Dios. “Print is a great support for DRTV, and it gives credibility to the product.”

Lazkani says there is no magic formula for every client to determine whether their campaign should either be in print or on television.

“Each client has specific goals for their product or service, which we weight against our research and recommendations,” she continues. “What works for one client may not work for another. Print can be an effective way to create an additional stream of revenue when successfully advertised on TV. Print can work hand-in-hand with a television campaign by reinforcing the brand’s awareness and credibility.”

Small, however, feels it is important not to co-mingle the different media forms to determine whether you should test print or TV.

“Just because a client has success in TV doesn’t translate into immediate success in print or vice versa,” he says. “Each media reaches out to a different audience and it is important to create your message specifically for each.”

8. What elements should be included in the ad’s creative context?
“Identify the problem, pinpoint the solution, have a great testimonial, plus a before and after shot,” says De Dios. “Also, your headline must be strong.”

“Creative should always contain a design scheme that appeals to your target demographics,” explains Lazkani. “Through research you’ll find that certain color schemes appeal to men more than women and some age groups are more interested in copy rather than graphics, for example.

Celia De Dios of Manhattan Media believes print ad headlines must be captivating.

“The key to creative design is to understand the target demographic. The product should be clearly represented with copy supporting the benefits of the product. Some advertisers overwhelm the reader with too much copy, while some don’t include enough. The less complicated and more targeted the ad, the better chance it has of larger appeal.”

Nading adds that a good hook that focuses on a gut reaction like fear, guilt or sex is important.

“That, plus a unique 800 number, a brief product or service description and an appropriate and eye-catching visual, especially if you are advertising a before-and-after product,” says Nading. The offer and how to place the order, including telephone number for credit card orders and address for check or money order, are also important.

9. In what cases should direct marketers not utilize the DR print medium?
Lazkani contends that if a direct marketer has advertised through DRTV with little or no success, she would not recommend starting up a print campaign.

“Chances are,” she says, “if the product did not succeed through valid attempts at DRTV, it is likely to produce similar results across any DR medium, including print unless the product is targeted and has a narrow audience.”

10. What’s the best advice that you can give to direct marketers who are looking at starting a DR print campaign?
Lazkani suggests, “Always ask for research. We provide research statistics with our proposals, which allow the marketer to see how we arrived at where a particular product should be placed.”

Small advises, “Test, test, test.”

Nading suggests, “Don’t rush into a DR print campaign just to get your message out. You need to know why you are placing the ad, what you want an ad to do for your overall campaign and what you need to be able to consider it successful.”

Dynamic Publishing: Taking Print Marketing to the Next Level
By Kristin Anderson

Marketers have been clamoring for the ability to reach each customer and prospect with the right message, the right offer, at the right time, and through the right channel. It is well known that relevancy marketing, also known as one-to-one marketing or database and interactive marketing, lifts response rates, enhances customer loyalty and increases customer value. However, it is also well known that the publishing aspects associated with relevancy marketing are a major hurdle.

Dynamic Publishing is about overcoming this hurdle. It extends variable data printing (VDP) into digital print and electronic media, focusing not only on final output media but also on document creation, with dynamic content, from design to production.

Dynamic Publishing also encompasses “print to Web,” in which you use print media to drive responses over to the Web, and “Web to print” applications where users can help themselves to configure and order customized print materials. Although we are used to thinking in terms of creating outbound marketing campaigns, Dynamic Publishing can also be used for creating the inbound, Web-based response mechanism for outbound campaigns.

So, just when you thought it was safe to jump into the VDP waters, along comes Dynamic Publishing. Don’t worry, though. Since digital technologies are at the heart of VDP, the expansion from digital print to electronic media is a natural one, and the business potential far outweighs the challenge.

What does it take to create and run an effective Dynamic Publishing project?

All variable data projects require a diverse team, working both separately and together to meet the goals of the project. There are four distinct, yet integrated, disciplines that are always involved. This is true whether all functions occur under one roof or whether they take place at different locations. These are campaign planning, database administration, graphic design and publishing.

Campaign planning. Your marketing campaign planner has one goal: to generate the highest response rate within a given budget. The focus is on the most effective audience selection, personalization, and response strategy. Optimally, the vision will be able to exploit all combinations of variable data, dynamic design and media. The result is a document defining the goals of the campaign, the data-driven variable elements and the business rules that determine their values for each recipient, the types of deliverables and their media, and which database(s) will be used.

Database administration. The database administrator translates the business rules into executable logic and prepares the data to feed such rules calculations. Throughout the lifetime of the project data sources may change. Initially, you may use an Excel spreadsheet or a desktop database, and for later stages, especially ongoing production, commercial-grade relational databases. The easier it is to link rules execution to different data sources, the simpler and faster it is to implement the campaign. Ideally, a standard SQL-capable rules language is used, and it is possible to link to one or more data sources of diverse kinds. With such capabilities, there is no need for extensive data preprocessing, which results in significantly improved timeliness and relevancy.

Graphic design. At the design agency, the copy is written and the visual assets are created and assembled. The new challenge for the graphic artist is to think of design in terms of changing text and graphics. You want them to be thinking strategically about the design, not confused by new tools. Artists are skilled in their existing graphics and Web design software and will be the most productive when they can use their familiar software for creating designs with static and dynamic objects. It is mandatory to link their design environment to the data and rules identified in the brief. Doing it in ways that will be natural and friendly to designers is highly desirable. Moreover, since there are many possible combinations of text and graphics changing independently of each other, you’ll get the best results if the artist can preview dynamic pages generated from actual or sample data throughout the creative process.

Publishing. Armed with the plan, the data, the visuals and the vision, the production manager can launch the cross-media campaign. Your Dynamic Publishing solution should manage the data integration and composition for the job, and create either an industry-standard VDP output stream, such as PPML, VIPP, VDX and PDF or an on-demand HTML, PDF, or JPEG single-instance, individualized, electronic document. This is crucial for efficient cross-media campaigns. The electronic portions of the job will become “live” as soon as they are linked to a local or remote Web server, meaning pages are automatically composed and “published” with each customer request. Using standard security and firewall technologies, this server can be the same as the one hosting your existing corporate Website.

Your best solution for Dynamic Publishing will set the stage for an efficient, flexible and collaborative production process that does not introduce unnecessary limits, distractions and delays. Here are some critical questions to think about when selecting your solution:

  • Is it truly suited to Dynamic Publishing? Be sure you can publish to multiple media types, on-demand, with all output formats referencing a common set of business rules, data and visual elements. Be prepared for the “print-to-Web” and “Web-to-print” elements to the campaigns.
  • How quickly can each functional group be ready to do their job? The solution should be based on industry-standard databases, query languages, design applications (Mac and PC), and output formats. It should support the native computing environments that the team uses and work with a commercial-grade database.
  • Does the solution facilitate parallel workflow to reduce time to publish? For example, will the database administrator and graphic artists be able to work concurrently, synchronizing from time to time, or will one have to wait until the other completes most of their tasks before really starting?
  • Will my workflow be flexible to accommodate changes? Your team needs to be able to respond quickly when marketing, or when your customer makes a last-minute change in any requirements, including the rules, data or visuals.
  • Does it accommodate unlimited variables or will I be forced to break one job into multiple versions?
  • Is the solution scaleable enough to grow with me? Remember, you will want to start with a simple job but the real world will add complexities-in terms of volume, cross-media, output devices and integration of third-party products.
  • Does the solution allow the development of a customized production process that leverages the foundation of Dynamic Publishing? This includes integration with third-party software solutions, building custom made Web-to-print solutions, and using databases in order to provide information exchange between the solution and other applications.

Marketers need a solution that enables integration across print and electronic media with consistent branding and personalized messaging. The benefits to customer response, customer retention and overall ROI are widely accepted and the desired applications have been waiting for the technology to catch up. This presents the rare opportunity for a print service provider to expand and add value to service offerings to seize a market where there is pent-up demand.

Kristin Anderson is director of product marketing for XMPie, a New York-based software solutions company specializing in Dynamic Publishing.

David Lustig is a contributing writer to Electronic Retailer magazine. We would appreciate your feedback. To submit comments, point your browser to printfeb.marketing-era.com.


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment