What Will the Control Packages of the Future Look Like?
How limitations of e-mail sanitizes the creative process.
Some of you subscription direct mail wonks may remember the highly regarded copywriter Bill Jayme and his design partner, Heikki Ratalahi (from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s). Mr. Jayme and Mr. Ratalahi are credited for having created a record number of subscription control packages for such magazines as Smithsonian, BusinessWeek, Psychology Today and Life.
The copywriting was smart and very funny, which was Bill Jayme’s trademark style. My personal favorite was the outer envelope copy he wrote for Psychology Today: “Do you close the bathroom door even when you’re the only one home?” Or the one for Personal Computing Magazine: “The boss’s daughter: How to keep from marrying her.” Genius stuff!
Now that we are becoming masters of multi-channel and email marketing I have to wonder if we are putting the same thought into creating really smart copy and design for our current online direct marketing efforts. Do we even have the time or budget to devote to it? Or, more importantly, would it actually increase response if we did?
One thing working against us is the whole nature of e-mail sort of sanitizes the creative process: You have 50 characters for the subject line but the first 20 characters count the most. What will the e-mail look like in the new version of Outlook? You need to “hook” your recipient in the preview pane which is only 1 ½ inches! Not to mention, beware of words that are “spam triggers."
I think we are so overwhelmed with the technology limitations and worry of spam that we are losing the real art of how creative direct marketing can be and how that creativity has driven the success of some of our iconic magazines. Some of Mr. Jayme’s copy was literary genius, but I suspect even he would feel constrained by all of the restrictions that technology has placed on our direct marketing creative.
So how can we push the creative “envelope?" My goal for next year is to create a really clever viral e-mail campaign or a very effective embedded video. Both of these e-mail marketing techniques have a way to push outside of technical restrictions and actually embrace what this marketing channel can do for us.
I think if Bill Jayme and Heikki Ratalahi were working in today’s subscription marketing environment, they would embrace this technology and show us all how creativity is not bound by how many characters you can have in a subject line.