FTC cracks down on endorsements and testimonials

FTC Testimonial CrackdownTestimonials have been a powerful advertising tool for generations. But now the FTC is stepping in to rewrite the rules for how you can use testimonials and endorsements.

While I’m not clear on how this will shake out, the press release issued by the FTC doesn’t look pretty.

The guidelines will not only affect the testimonials used in ads, they will also affect consumers, experts, bloggers, organizations, and celebrities who endorse products.

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Snap Pack Facts: part deux

Back in March, I posted an interesting interview with Ted Grigg about snap packs, the red-headed step child of direct mail.

Like so many things in direct mail, snap packs work far better than they look, in part because they look personal and important rather than flashy.

If you haven’t read that interview, read it now. Then watch this video from Ballantine Blog showing two types of modern snap packs.

I love the Ballantine Blog videos. Yes, they’re meant to promote printing services, but they’re highly educational for anyone interested in direct mail.

And you should be interested in direct mail. For those of you who think direct mail is going away and everything will be online in about 5 minutes, heed my warning: Direct mail will be with us for many, many years. It works like gangbusters and you ignore it at your peril.

You can see what I have to say about the death of direct mail at DM News.

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Design and legibility: 7 tips for high ad readership

This is part 2 of a 2-part post on ad design and legibility. In this part, we’ll look at how to use basic reading concepts to get more people to read your advertising.

Meaningful sales messages are transmitted through language, not design. The goal of design, therefore, is to encourage and support readership. In general, a designer should strive to:

1. Draw attention to the copy and help the reader get started reading.

2. Make reading easy by applying the basic rules of layout and typography.

3. Help communicate the writer’s message (not produce a work of art).

Specifically, a designer should make every effort to work with the realities of how people read and make the process as easy and transparent as possible.

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Design and legibility: 10 basic principles of reading

This is part 1 of a 2-part post on ad design and legibility. In this part, we take a look at how people read.

With no special instruction, people instinctively learn spoken language. In fact, within just three years, an infant will master a vocabulary of about 1,000 words. Reading, however, must be taught. It’s a difficult process, and even after years of instruction, most people remain relatively poor readers into adulthood.

Reading is literally an unnatural act.

This is crucial for you to understand, since so many marketing efforts, and most especially direct mail and print ads, depend on your getting people to READ. In fact, I would go as far to say:

Direct mail and print advertising is all about READING.

Reading envelope teasers. Reading letters. Reading brochures. Reading order forms. Reading headlines. Reading coupons. Without reading — easy, effortless reading — you have no sales.

Therefore, one of the most devastating response barriers is simple legibility. Can your prospects read your message? Can they read it effortlessly?

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Sales lead call backs: strike while the iron is hot

strike while the iron is hotLead generation is a fairly straightforward task. You reach out to a list of prospects with letters, postcards, emails, ads, or other promotional material. You offer something, like a quote or brochure or other freebie. And you follow up with those who contact you to begin the process of getting customers.

Call backs are an essential part of this process. The point of lead generation is not merely to distribute promotional literature or create awareness, but to winnow your prospects to a list of sales leads to give to your sales force.

A sales rep must then call back quickly. Why? If you’ve ever watched a blacksmith work, it’s easy to understand.

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Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

When I first saw this mock commercial on Family Guy for the Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man, I nearly fell off the couch. It reminds me of my days as a TV producer for an NBC affiliate where I created some commercials that were nearly as outrageous.

Warning: If you’re at the office, turn down your audio a bit.

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Soup, sand, and rancid cheese: The craziest direct mail test in history

crazy direct mail testingNine years ago, I discovered an article at Improbable Research about a direct mail test that was so bizarre, I had to share it with others. So, with the permission of the author, I posted it to my website.

It turned out to be a popular article, amusing and amazing people all over the country.

Why all the fuss? Why would so many people outside the direct marketing industry want to read an article on direct mail testing?

Because it chronicles the most audacious direct mail test in history. It started as a prank, but developed into a revealing look at how good the USPS really can be at delivering mail.

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Brainstorming doesn’t work?

According to research cited by PsyBlog (one of my favorite blogs), brainstorming may not be as effective as people are lead to believe.

I wrote about brainstorming in The Secrets of Successful Brainstorming on my main website. And because I’ve conducted brainstorming sessions with clients, I know firsthand that there are limitations to this technique and that it’s hard to get brainstorming to work just right.

According to PsyBlog, problems such as people slacking in groups and fear of being evaluated can result in a group producing fewer and lower quality ideas than people working alone.

I can verify this from personal experience, though I have found that poor results come primarily from the wrong group mix, a rigid company culture, and inexperience with brainstorming.

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Comic book ads reveal “action” design

Comic Book Ad

I was looking at some old ads for comic books recently. In addition to bringing back boyhood memories, it got me thinking about what’s often wrong with ad design these days.

Comic books (and the ads for them) are all about action and adventure. The design creates this feeling with vivid colors, imperfect hand lettering, perspective, and angles.

Imagine what a comic would look like if the colors were muted, the letters were small and perfect, the images were flat, and all the graphics were linear.

It would look like many ads you see today. Boring and aloof.

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What if a corporation created the STOP sign?

I have often remarked that the stop sign is a lesson in simple, direct copywriting and design.

But what if the creation of the stop sign were directed by a corporate marketing department?

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