Direct Mail Graphics









The Only Role of Graphics Is to Support the Sales Message

Direct mail is out to sell (or motivate, as with lead acquisition mailings), in a way that is a true extension of in-person selling.

So you can see why you should be reluctant to put direct mail graphics into the hands of an art director who holds his personal notion of aesthetics above sales effectiveness.

Some of our more memorable moments in direct marketing have been with general advertising agencies or art boutiques assigned by clients to do the graphics for one of our projects. The worst of these moments have been with art directors who are "awards conscious." This is commonly called the Hack on a Mac Syndrome.

They proudly show award-winning graphics. Lots of white space. A line or two of copy. And oh-so-pretty. We know it's going to be like talking to Martians. We counterattack with a few samples of our own. Little white space. Heavy copy. And, as they like to say, "Busy!"

Direct Mail Priorities Don't Exclude Beauty

Many direct mail packages are brilliant examples of inspired and balanced graphics. But those that are done right support the sales concept.

Direct marketer Freeman Gosden, Jr. once remarked, "When an art director says he wants your coupon to ‘blend’ into the lay-out, be careful. Blend is another word for camouflage. Camouflage is another word for hide. If the art director just came out and said he wanted to hide your reply device, you would know he is not the person for the job."

When you buy artwork for direct mail, do it with sales effectiveness in mind – and have courage. It is easy for an art director with little or no direct mail experience to intimidate you by saying, "No one reads all that copy!" Or, "What you want is pure schlock!" Or, "It's boraxy!" Or, "It will ruin your image!"

When art directors say such things to us, we deliver a standard speech that begins with, "Frankly, Scarlett…."

We Want to Evoke Action Emotions through Our Graphics

We want to command attention, create immediate desire, and excite the reader in a way that gives urgency, credibility, and a call to action.

Soothing or quieting graphics seldom fit the needs of direct marketing. Certainly there can be beauty and balance. We have many examples of direct mail packages with prestige graphics that did extremely well. Yet the graphics for those packages were still subordinate to the sales message. They complemented the pitch. They reflected the sales concept. They did not go off on a designer's independent and subjective interpretation of fine art.

When you evaluate graphics, ask yourself if the appearance of your direct mail sales pitch has the look of a good salesman. Is it a clear, direct, confident, forceful, uncompromising, exciting, credible, and clear presentation of your sales concept? If it is you have good graphics. And if it is off the mark, tell your art director to, "Read the damned copy before you start designing." They will be shocked by your suggestion.

Prev Next Home

©2011 John Nicksic Copy
707 E. Palace Ave.
Suite 2
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501