A revolution in advertising design? You decide.

A direct mail company has introduced a printing technology they call “ReadSmart.” Here is their description:

ReadSmart automatically formats text through subtle manipulation so that the printed page reflects the structure of language. Text becomes easier to read, maintaining the overall normal appearance of the page without changing any words, fonts, grammar, or punctuation. ReadSmart can also customize formatting to match certain demographics of intended readers, further increasing the appeal and impact of copy. Source: Direct Group

They cite research that claims huge increases in comprehension, response, and profits. Does it work? It appears to me that the technology is grouping phrases in the copy, which is exactly what reading studies have shown to be an efficient way to read. But the grouping is very, very subtle. So I suppose it’s possible, though the claims seem pretty dramatic.

If you’re curious, here’s a sample pdf showing before and after copy. Decide for yourself. And if you know anyone who’s tried this, let me know. I’m curious.

UPDATE: Direct Group has removed this from their site.

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The secret of great copywriting has nothing to do with writing!

Edmund Burke, a British statesman, once said, “Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.”

Exactly right. Facts are the beginning for clear thinking and for powerful copywriting. To create effective direct mail or ads, you have to have something substantial and relevant to say. Puffery and empty technique just don’t cut it.

That’s why I always go through a set of basic questions when I’m starting a copywriting project. In fact, I have a standard advertising and marketing questionnaire to help collect the information I’ll need. This questionnaire covers the product, the prospect, and the promotion.

Here are a few examples:

Read the full questionnaire at my main site. This is really just a starting point. I can easily ask over a hundred questions. The more information, the better.

For many copywriters, the temptation is to start writing immediately. That’s a huge mistake. The best work is always based on facts. And facts take time to find and understand.

When people ask where I get ideas for headlines or sales letters, I say, “I don’t know.” I really don’t. What I do know is that they generally pop into my head as I’m slogging through tons of information.

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A hodgepodge of marketing ideas from the Web

Do people like advertising? Many would have you believe the answer is “no.” But I think differently. And I keep seeing statistics that prove me right. Like this report showing DRTV spots being watched on TiVo. It basically says that direct response spots are the least fast forwarded. Maybe because they’re interesting rather than merely entertaining like so many other TV spots?

Words that give your legal department a headache is an interesting article that hits home with me. Some of my large, corporate clients give me headaches. I think corporate lawyers worry way too much about low probability lawsuits and too often get in the way of good selling copy. And I do NOT believe that lawyers should have the last word on what is acceptable in marketing. Input, yes.

Message Believability – Does Tiger Woods Really Drive A Buick? I doubt it. And those commercials always make me laugh. Not that there’s anything wrong with Buicks. But somehow I can’t see Tiger driving one. But even though he was dropped, according to this article, I just saw a spot last night with Tiger being amazed that OnStar would unlock his car. I guess they need time to line up another spokesman. Maybe Donald Trump? Yeah, that’s believable.

No matter the market, people are at different levels of knowledge about problems and products. The Blogger’s Guide to Indirect Selling is aimed at bloggers, but the principles of reader awareness apply to any sort of copywriting or selling.

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Is SEO copywriting a good idea for direct marketers?

There’s an ongoing debate between traditional direct response copywriters and the new breed of online copywriters about the importance of SEO (search engine optimization).

In a DM News article, Bob Bly writes about why he doesn’t believe in SEO copywriting. His point is simply that good copywriting should come first and that thinking about keywords is secondary, if you think about them at all. He says “forget the search engines” and “never change a word of strong selling copy.”

Then you have, well, just about everyone on the Internet, who say that SEO is the only way to go. Aaron Wall, for example, is the author of SEO Book and maintains that choosing the right keywords and using them in the right way can rocket you to the top of the search results and boost your traffic and sales.

Who’s right?

This debate is like the direct marketing versus mass marketing debate. It’s two groups of people, each with a different marketing model, trying to lay claim to the ultimate truth.

The traditional direct response guys generally use direct mail or e-mail marketing to drive people to their sites, so they don’t care as much about search engine results. The SEO guys generally use keyword tactics to pull people into their sites, so they care very much about search engine results.

The two are not incompatible. In fact, they can be complementary. It’s just that each has chosen a different way to create traffic.

My view? Why not use both? Does it matter HOW you get results? Smart marketers use any and every tactic that works. Besides, if you really understand SEO copywriting, it’s really about understanding what people are looking for and using the right words to connect to them. Isn’t that what good direct response copywriting is supposed to do?

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