Essential Guide to Increasing your Response Rates - Part 2: Announcement advertising

05-Jul-2009 15:27:53

Announcement advertising consists of well, as you would expect, an announcement and little else. In essence an announcement advert says, "I have this, buy it." That's it.

It's ever so simple to do which is probably why it is one of the most popular forms of direct mail advertising. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn't work at all.

Occasionally announcement advertising can work - and indeed it can work very well - where there is enthusiasm on the part of the reader, or a shortage of a product. If Arsenal Football Club sends me an announcement advert that says tickets for the game against Tottenham Hotspur FC will go on sale on Tuesday at 9am, then I will be there, applying for my ticket. If the NEC writes to me and says Bob Dylan will be playing on a specific date, click here to apply for tickets - again I am there - no more advertising is needed. This is announcement advertising at its best. There is enthusiasm announcement advertising and those of us silly enough to be this committed, will go along with it.

As for shortage advertising - when I lived in Algiers many years ago, there was always a shortage of cheese. So when some cheese arrived, the shops that got the cheese put up a sign saying CHEESE (in Arabic, obviously) and everyone formed a disorderly queue. They didn't put up signs about what type of cheese they had, how their cheese was particularly low priced or singularly delicious. There was no point. Demand outstripped supply. You just had to say "cheese" and life in the city came to a halt.

But of course most of us don't sell cheese in a cheese-free country, or tickets for events that always sell out. Our products or services are n either in short supply nor reaching a devoted audience of fanatics. Most of us have to work at the selling. That seems stunningly obvious, and yet if you take a look at the direct mail you get each day you will see a lot of it is nothing but announcement advertising.

Take this example:

Bluebox Notepad Upgrades Available Now!

To make sense of this advert the reader has to go through a series of hoops...

a) What is a bluebox?

b) Do I need a bluebox notepad upgrade?

c) Why should I buy it here?

d) Why should I buy it now?

By the time I have asked all those questions in my head the five seconds I will give to this advert are up, and I move on to something less taxing. (Of course I know that it can be argued that people who have a Bluebox will understand at once - and that could be true. But that still doesn't mean they understand why they should buy the upgrade, and why they should buy it here.)

Now try this one

Direct Mail conference: The challenge of diversity

Although this looks slightly more approachable, there is still nothing here to tell me why I should read on unless I am already tuned into the phrase "The challenge of diversity". Why should I read on? Why should I go to a conference? What diversity? Don't I have something better to do?

If I am a fanatic who reads everything about direct mail I might read on, but the average passing reader who is a direct mail user but nothing more has better things to do, and will not pause.

To illustrate just how different it can all be, consider these alternative approaches that could have been used.

Bluebox Notepad Upgrades - we guarantee the lowest prices anywhere

In the first one we now have a reason to buy. It still depends on us knowing what the Bluebox is, but assuming that if we have one, we remember we have one, and we understand about upgrades for it, we could think, "I don't need an upgrade now, but these are cheap, so maybe I should look."

So, let's try and go further.

Bluebox Notepad Upgrades - twice the speed, half the power consumption

We guarantee the lowest prices anywhere

Now suddenly we have got somewhere. No more announcements, but instead real information. Still taking the line that people who don't know what a Bluebox is won't be reading anyway, those with interest will think - wow, this upgrade is really worth having. I know the upgrade last year was more trouble than it was worth, but this one looks really good. And look, lowest prices. Yes this is going to be the one to get. Better get it now.

So what can we do with the direct mail diversity conference. How about...

Cut your postage costs by 20%

Again we now have a headline that suddenly attracts our attention. Cut postage? How? So we read the next few lines and discover that because there are now rivals to Royal Mail ("diversity") there are good postage deals available. I can learn about it all at a conference. "Oh my," I think, "I am wasting money paying too much on postage - I'd better go." Because I have given the piece a spot of time, my brain goes into overtime. Within seconds I am telling my MD that the £500 spent attending the conference ("it's not a jolly boss, honest") will be recouped by the company within a month through savings on our postage.

Neither re-written advert headline is the ultimate that can be achieved - far from it - but at least each takes one step away from simplistic announcements.

Free analysis of your mailshot

This article is written by leading copywriter Tony Attwood. If you would like to discuss the writing or design of your mailing campaign, or indeed a single mailshot, with Tony, without cost or obligation, just call 01536 399 000, or email You can also send Tony a copy of your latest advert and he will call you back with his thoughts on how your response rate could be raised - again without cost or obligation. Email it to the same address or fax it to 01536 399 012.

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Topics: Direct Mail