171 DM Questions – How do I plan media for DM?

78. Where do I start with DM media planning?

Many marketers say: We’ll have a direct mail campaign or go on TV before analysing the problem.

They put the cart before the horse by pre-selecting a medium which may be inappropriate.

First, define your objective. Acquiring customers or keeping them? Outside media are best for the former; your database for the latter.

79. What are the criteria for planning media?

a) How easy is it to locate your prospects?

If you know who your prospects are, it’s easy to reach them. Direct mail or the telephone are often perfect. However, this may be influenced by the market.

If you don’t know who your prospects are, you’re going to have to get them to identify themselves. This probably means press, TV, radio or take-ones.

b) The rule of 3

Watch your most intelligent competitors.

If an ad or mailing runs once, they’re testing; twice means it worked and they’re re-testing; three times means it worked again.

This can help you in creative and media. (But make sure your competitor knows what he’s doing. Many don’t.)

c) The message should determine the medium

How much do you want to say? And how complex is it?

If you just want to get action from people familiar with your product, simple short messages work well. The take-one, TV or radio, small space ads usually make sense.

More complex messages call for direct mail or large press advertisements which give you room to develop an argument, and give your reader time to study it.

d) Custom-tailored campaigns

The idea of a predetermined budget for a campaign spanning a certain period is not valid in Direct Marketing.

Money will be invested or not, campaigns will be prolonged or curtailed – depending on results.

Better than anticipated results: greater investment, longer campaigns and vice versa.

80. How long should I keep running an ad or mailing?

As long as it works. Or at any rate, until you find one that does better – by testing.

You get bored with your advertising because you see it all the time. But your prospects are constantly changing. So don’t alter what’s working just for the sake of it. I know of two examples of advertisements that have run for over 40 years successfully. One you have probably seen yourself:

Can’t remember names, faces?

This ad keeps running because it works.

Far too often people talk in terms of “the new campaign”. Don’t have a new campaign unless the old one isn’t working.

81. How often should I repeat an ad or mailing?

  • Size of the ad (the smaller, the more often you may repeat).
  • The interest of the product (the greater the human appeal the more frequently it will run).
  • The larger the circulation of the medium, the more you may repeat.
  • After about six months, most mailings will get more or less the same result to the same list.
  • f you have a mailing which is doing over double break even, a follow-up in a month should pay – generally it will do half as well.
  • The same thinking, about exploiting your winners, applies to ads.
  • Once you have got the maximum possible number of replies at an acceptable cost, spread your net – look for similar media or lists.

82. How soon can I re-mail someone with the same creative?

After about six months, most mailings will get more or less the same result to the same list.

You can certainly re-mail confidently after a year.

83. What can I learn from studying my competitors’ media plans?

Watch your most intelligent competitors.

If an ad or mailing runs once, they’re testing; twice means it worked and they’re re-testing; three times means it worked again.

84. What published statistics are helpful? And how helpful?

The following are useful sources – but the question is: how useful are they?


(Target Group Index)


(National Readership Survey)


(Businessmen’s Readership Survey)


(Pan European Survey)


(European Businessmen’s Readership Survey)

Beware: figures can lie

Research data is very misleading.

As the chart below shows, there is often a wide discrepancy between research and results. The figures purport to show the number of self employed people with one or more employees who could be reached in various publications. But some media are simply more responsive than others.

You will see under the heading “rank order” the figures you would expect to get based upon the research; Then “actual order” shows what actually happened when somebody ran an ad.

All adults: Self employedOne plus employees
National dailies & Sundays ‘000 Coverage % Cost CPT Rank Order Actual Results
News of the World 269 23 3800 14.12 1 7
Sunday Telegraph 133 11 2100 15.99 2 9
Daily Mail 194 17 3120 16.08 3 2
Mail on Sunday 170 15 2770 16.29 4 1
Daily Express 214 18 3500 16.35 5 3
Daily Mirror 194 17 3480 17.94 6 8
Sunday Express 350 30 6355 18.16 7 5
Sunday Mirror 220 19 4020 18.27 8
Sunday Times 191 16 3500 18.32 9
Sun 204 18 3800 18.62 10 6
Sunday People 195 17 3945 20.23 11
Sunday Mail 43 4 890 20.70 12
The Star 62 5 1400 22.58 13 4
Daily Telegraph 127 11 3000 23.62 14
The Times 67 6 2000 29.85 15
Daily Record 33 3 1310 39.70 16
Observer 84 7 3450 41.07 17
The Guardian 35 3 1750 50.00 18
Financial Times 32 3 1720 53.75 19

85. What big mistakes should I watch for in media planning?

Many marketers say: We’ll have a direct mail campaign or go on TV before analysing the problem.

They put the cart before the horse by pre-selecting a medium which may be inappropriate.

First, define your objective. Acquiring customers or keeping them? Outside media are best for the former; your database for the latter.

The second dangerous mistake is to launch straight into a campaign without any preliminary tests. This is the rule rather than the exception amongst new direct marketers. No sensible mail order firm would dream of doing it.

86. What factors affect media cost?

The following factors govern cost:

  • How intrusive is the medium?
  • How great is the potential for interaction?
  • How much can you communicate?
  • How finely can you target?

Each of these factors will put the price up. Thus, the telephone allows you to interact and is also the most intrusive medium apart from face to face. Not surprisingly, it is extremely expensive. But the issue is not cost. It is what you get for what you pay.

You can reach 1,000 of a broad market very cheaply, but the issue is not how many people you reach. It is: are they the right people; and what effect does your message have for what you spend?

87. How long should a DM campaign last?

The idea of a predetermined budget for a campaign spanning a certain period is not valid in Direct Marketing.

Money will be invested or not, campaigns will be prolonged or curtailed – depending on results.

Better than anticipated results: greater investment, longer campaigns and vice versa.

There are cases where campaigns have lasted – that is to say the same ad has run successfully – for over 40 years.

88. How do traditional and DM media planning differ?

The direct marketer’s approach to media planning, selection and evaluation differs from that of the traditional advertiser in two ways:

Traditionalists look for coverage whereas direct marketers seek cost-effectiveness. Results matter more than research.

A traditional advertiser aims to cover a target audience as effectively as possible, by giving the prospects as many OTS (Opportunities to See) as one effectively can within the budget. Direct marketers want a cost-effective response from every insertion.

Generally the first time an ad runs it gets its best response and, unless careful attention is paid to frequency, later insertions attract fewer replies.

You have to decide how, with the help of copy or size variations, and gaps between insertions, response can be maintained at an acceptable level.

Five major differences

  • The various media do not enjoy the same relative importance conventional marketers assign them.
  • The effectiveness of media is often evaluated differently.
  • Schedules and budgets have to be designed to make allowances for a great deal of testing.
  • The concept of repetition is viewed in a different way.
  • The effect of space size is regarded differently.

Let’s look at these important differences one by one.

Different emphasis

The relative importance to direct marketers of each medium is almost reverse that of a general advertiser.

The mailing list – be it a rented one, for instance, or a selection of names from a particular database – is the medium you will rely on most.

E-mail lists are important, too, but there aren’t enough around.

Other media, you would scarcely mention in general advertising, are very important, too. Door-to-door drops, take-ones and inserts for example.

The telephone, outbound and inbound it is the largest single promotional medium in the United States. In some countries unsolicited outbound telephone calls are forbidden. So the role of the telephone will vary according to the legal situation in your country.

Television, in many countries the number one general advertising medium, is usually a secondary medium for the direct marketer – though its use is growing fast.

Radio enjoys less attention than TV but it is a powerful medium, particularly for generating leads for financial services.

In particular, a new type (well, really an old type that has re-emerged) of programme has made major inroads. This is also true on television. This is the infomercial: a programme which may last for as long as half an hour.

This is a good example of something that many firms forget: customers thirst for useful information. They are fed up with meaningless overclaim; helpful facts often do more to convince than anything else.

Posters – a major medium for general advertisers almost everywhere in the world – are of relatively little interest to us.

In short, if your background is in general marketing, you must rethink your priorities when you become a direct marketer: just about the only equivalent medium in general and direct is the press.

89. What are the most effective direct media ?

A simple way to look at the media is to look at how much each costs to reach an individual. Not surprisingly, the more it costs to reach each individual, by and large the greater the impact will be on that individual.

Thus, if we call personal selling a medium, it is certainly the most expensive. On the other hand, generally speaking, nothing will have greater impact on a prospect or customer than another human being talking to them face to face.

The telephone, the most expensive ‘advertising’ medium at our disposal, is the one which has the most impact next to personal selling.

After that, we have direct mail – not as expensive as the telephone, but still a potent communication because it reaches individuals and can, of course, be personalised and tailored to fit the information obtained from your database or rented list.

Then there is e-mail, which is still very cheap, and for that reason probably as cost-effective as direct mail – and often more so

Next, we have the insert – the chameleon of the business. That’s because an insert can be used in so many ways and can appear in so many guises. It can be something that you include in one of your regular communications. Or it can be sent out with some merchandise. Or it can be bound into a publication. Or it can be free-standing in a publication. It can even re-emerge as something stuck through your door, or placed as a ‘take-one’ at point of sale.

Nearly all these types of insert will attract less attention from the individual than a direct mail shot, but usually more attention than – for instance – a full page press advertisement. Of course, when it is used as a ‘take-one’, it is almost impossible to predict what impact an insert might have – it depends almost entirely upon where the material is sited.

Nevertheless, I would say all the media I have listed so far have a greater impact in terms of reaching the individual than TV, radio and the press. On the other hand, of course, all those three media are relatively inexpensive in terms of reaching large numbers.

Obviously all the instances above are general guidelines, not universal truths. For instance, the poster is probably the medium with least individual appeal, but you have to make allowance for particular cases.

A poster on a highway is almost useless to direct marketers. Most are seen under circumstances where it is very difficult to respond; they are seen fleetingly so their content has to be short and relatively unpersuasive And they are relatively unselective in terms of targeting.

On the other hand, a poster at a railway station, an underground stop or a pedestrian area does allow for longer reading and a more persuasive argument.

90. How do I determine which media to use?

You will first consider the demographic make-up of your prospects or customers – their location, their physical and financial characteristics – and also their psychographic characteristics: what kind of people are they?

The calculation then ought to be quite simple: how many of the right type of people can you reach for a given sum in a particular medium? This is – put very simply – the way in which general advertisers tend to make their media plans before proceeding to the equally important matter of how good a deal you can get from the particular medium to reach those particular people.

However the media which appear to have the greatest number of likely prospects do not always prove as responsive as they ought. Some media appear to attract more responses than others, even though they may seem to have near identical profiles. You can take two newspapers which ought to deliver a similar type of prospect in similar numbers for a similar cost, yet one will prove to be far more effective than another.

These are facts you will learn only from experience and from studying your results. Moreover, they are constantly changing, as publications change. This means you must be unusually sensitive to what is happening day by day. You must be alert, and ready to alter your plans.

Fortunately, because you are measuring your results you don’t have to rely on guesswork or computer analysis. But this does place unusual demands upon the direct marketing media planner. Perhaps greater in some ways than conventional media planners face.

91. How far ahead should I plan media?

As a general advertiser, you may plan how you are going to spend your budget once or twice a year, place the ads or commercials … and that’s more or less it apart from opportunistic campaigns.

Retail is the outstanding exception, of course, where frequent swift change is called for.

But in most general advertising you may, for example, have an autumn and spring campaign, but there is relatively small requirement for change. (I once spent half an hour listening to one of our clients complaining bitterly that his advertising agency had been running the same ad, fundamentally, for 15 years … and collecting 15 % every time it ran. I wish it were that easy for us.)

In our business, we know just what the results are of each mailing or ad. We are constantly trying new approaches. New sizes. New formats. New lists. New publications. For this reason, it is always wise to set aside a percentage of your budget for testing. You must have loose scheduling, too. You must be ready to switch your money around dependent upon the results you are getting. Such and such a publication may suddenly stop pulling as well as it did previously.

A mailing list that used to work well for you last year may suddenly flop. Another may suddenly start improving. Or for that matter the market for your particular product may suddenly turn sour. You must stand ready to change your plans instantly.

In summary, the very idea of a fixed sum to be spent each financial year or season is not sensible for direct marketers. The issue is: how much can I afford to spend to acquire a prospect, or to produce a sale from a customer? And within reason, as long as you can meet that figure and you have the money available, then keep spending.

Conversely, if you suddenly find you are not getting the cost per response you want and can afford, then you have to find either a more effective communication, or a more effective medium – and pare your spending until you have done so.

92. How often should I run an ad in one medium?

Marketing is a form of war. You are trying to gain and retain ‘territory’ in the form of market share or individual customers. This sort of thinking led many years ago to media men thinking in terms of ‘domination’. The idea was that you could dominate a particular medium either through repetition, or through big spaces.

In fact, in the 1950s the Ted Bates agency in the United States conducted a number of studies which indicated that once you had covered a certain medium to a certain degree you were better off spreading your net further and going to other media than spending more money to dominate existing ones.

Much earlier, some interesting research was conducted in the United States in a related area, which ought to influence everybody’s thinking. In 1912, a man called Shryer studied what happens when you repeat advertisements. He learned that if you run an ad a second time immediately after you have run it a first time, it does not get better results. It generally does worse.

Almost every direct advertiser finds this to be true. The only exceptions I have come across have been in financial advertising where the credibility of the advertiser was important. Until prospects had seen the advertisement once or twice they were worried about whether they ought to do business with that particular firm.

Yet how many times have you heard space sellers try to persuade you to take a series in exchange for a discount? You probably recall the pitch: ‘People may not notice it the first time. But if you keep running it, they will eventually get round to replying.’ The truth is that your prime prospects, the cream of your market, will tend to reply to the first ad. To get the same level of response again, you’ll probably have to wait a little while until more prime prospects emerge. This does not mean you can’t repeat ads. It merely means you ought to carefully consider the right interval between repetition.

93. How many different media should I include in a campaign?

The media you choose will depend on your objectives, and what you are selling. You certainly cannot divorce creative considerations from media planning.

If you are selling a set of records, there is a strong argument for considering radio which allows you to use sound. If you are selling a complex financial product, you will need room to tell your story. You’ll probably be considering a flexible medium like direct mail.

If you are going for an enquiry then a sale, you may have an ad with a direct mail and/or e-mail follow-up – And you must have a website for people to visit – and when you see they have visited the website you may wish to – in fact you should – e-mail them.

Certainly if your business is at all substantial, you will be considering more than one medium. This is where we come to the media mix – or recipe. This is the judicious selection of the right media in combination to achieve the right effects.

Thus, a car firm might use television, websites and posters to communicate awareness of a particular product and show off its looks. They might then use national press and magazines to convey more detailed information, using the local press – perhaps backed up by direct mail from dealers and radio – to encourage people to come in and test drive a car. Direct mail and telephone can be used to stimulate loyalty and repeat sales.

You will know where direct marketing should fit into your marketing objective. And since you are looking at how you treat an individual, rather than the way you reach masses of people, you ought to consider carefully the sequence of communications most likely to get the best results, bearing in mind how much you can afford to pay to get a lead or a sale…

Suppose you were introducing an expensive new business product. You would want to make sure you were reaching the right people. You might test the telephone against a questionnaire mailing to identify the appropriate decision-makers.

You might simultaneously announce to them that you are about to make a special offer which they should keep their eyes open for. You might then send out mailings and e-mails detailing this offer. Doing both in sequence has been shown to work.

And, if your response were high enough to justify it, you might send out further follow-up mailings, e-mails and or even telephone call shortly after the mailing came out to give it greater impact. This is all part of the planning process.

Once you have these people’s names on file, you would then be thinking how quickly you ought to re-contact them, and how often, because obviously they might not be ready to buy your product when you first approach them.

Other considerations might be conducting a test of the appropriate trade press to see whether couponed advertising would prove as cost-effective in locating the right decision-makers as the telephone or direct mail. (In my experience it never does.)

Not only does using media series often work; you will also find that using them simultaneously or nearly simultaneously can improve results.

Thus you might link a television announcement to a direct mail campaign – as Reader’s Digest often do announcing their sweepstakes. In short, the number of media you should include in a campaign should be based – like everything else in direct marketing – on testing and working out what combinations and sequences pay best.

94. What factors affect responses?

Generally the first time an ad runs it gets its best response and, unless careful attention is paid to frequency, later insertions attract fewer replies.

You have to decide how, with the help of copy or size variations, and gaps between insertions, response can be maintained at an acceptable level.

Tests show if you repeat an ad (or a mailing) too soon it does worse. It is like fishing in a pool with only a certain number of fish.

95. When will you get the best results?

Winter generally better than summer.

This varies by products – e.g. swimming pools do well in summer.

Particular days of the week work for particular products.

Four response killers:

  • Dramatic news (unless it’s linked favourably to your product).
  • Very good weather.
  • Competitive activity.
  • Public holiday

96. What do I gain from integrating media?

2 + 2 = 5

Direct Marketing working with advertising or other disciplines creates synergy.

You get more using them together than separately.

The reason is that direct marketing, through whatever medium, is a form of advertising.

You should always think how best to combine different media.

There are two simple ways to look at this.

Contacting people with a sequence of media.

Trying to reach them through different media at more or less the same time.

Generally speaking, running the same message or at any rate a palpably similar message in two different media at more or less the same time will increase the effectiveness of both. Indeed, anything which means you speak with the same voice in different media makes sense.

97. How long do people recall direct mail?

Studies for a client a few years ago revealed:

Direct mail achieved 2.5 to 4 times more spontaneous awareness than TV.

The awareness lasted longer (in one case several months longer).

Direct mail recipients understood the message much better.

Direct mail achieved product trial 50% to 200% greater than TV.

More recently a “thank you letter for a bank had over 90% recall after a month.

98. When will e-mail eliminate direct mail?

We have been asked this many times, and our partner Marta Caricato’s reply seems relevant:

“It will take about as long as it took TV to eliminate the cinema.”

U.S. mail volumes are far higher than here but continue to rise steadily at about 5% a year.

E-mail volumes are rising about 25% a year – but from a much smaller base.

99. Which works best – direct mail or e-mail?

There is no simple answer and results are constantly changing.

Ten years ago e-mails were spectacularly effective as they were new and there weren’t many.

Now it would be pretty unusual for an email to do better than direct mail.

We did achieve a 400% improvement in 2006 when we followed up a letter with an e-mail – but the letter was very weak.

100. What are the main benefits of direct mail?

Direct mail has always been the principal dm medium. It is good for testing, and building relationships with your customers.

Today e-mail is taking over to some degree and had manmy of the same merits, but at a lower cost.

Direct mail is the most expensive medium open to you after the telephone, per person reached. On TV you can measure hundreds of impressions for every pound spent.

In direct mail you can reach two or maybe three people for a pound. But they will, if you plan properly, be the right people. People you can speak to personally. And with direct mail you can test an infinite number of variables.

Other advantages include:

Selectivity – You can target with great precision, using the information available to you from your database or what you know about the list you have rented, and you can use personalised printing techniques to add impact.

Flexibility – You can, of course, choose when you mail, but more importantly, you can control what goes out. It is not a medium with only two dimensions like the press.

You are not restricted to a limited space, or time as on TV or radio. So, having a careful eye to the costs of posting, you can tell as complete a story as you wish when mailing to people, using any kind of illustrative technique or device (like a pop-up) you like.

And it is also very easy to vary direct mail packages for testing purposes, in terms of the number of pieces enclosed and the messages on those pieces.

Big results – If you were lucky enough to sell one £50 product just once to one in a hundred (1 %) of the many millions of people who read a major national newspaper, you could retire for quite a while. Even one in 1,000 readers (0.1 %) responding would be very satisfying.

Compared to that, direct mail produces enormous percentage results, though these don’t always mean instant wealth.

What sort of results? Well, for years the magic figure of 2 % used to be quoted by people who didn’t know this business. Where this figure came from I do not know. But let me give you some idea of the sort of results you can sometimes expect.

A major UK catalogue firm could quite easily expect between 10 % and 15 % response rate when offering a new catalogue in a mailing.

Where you are simply offering the opportunity to enter a competition and win something, you can expect much higher results. 20 % is not at all unusual. 50 % is not unknown. You tend to get the lower figures appealing to businesses, and the higher when approaching customers.

In fact, basing your thinking on some putative response rate is not good.

One client in the Far East was outraged when our agency only produced a 45 % response rate. He felt his product was so marvelous that 80 % or 90 % should reply to it. Some optimist.

The issue to address is: how many responses do I need to reach an acceptable break-even, based upon the financial criteria I have already set up? The answer to that will depend entirely upon your own business and the tests you conduct.

The important thing to remember is that direct mail can be very profitable when approaching relatively small numbers of people compared with the press. And the big percentages make it an obvious test medium. Above all, it is the way you normally reach your most important group of people: your own customers.

The one-piece mailer – Another fast-developing format. Changes in printing technology have led to the design of machinery which can, with one pass, create pieces which, after folding, act as complete mailings in themselves. In effect, you have a very low-cost mailing all made from one piece of paper.

A one-piece mailer can be used as an insert or as a pure mailing piece. Its variety of applications makes it a potentially very powerful weapon.

However, the principal advantage of this kind of format (which includes the ability to personalise) is that you can incorporate a letter, order form, brochure … even a catalogue if you wish. All printed at once, from one sheet of paper. When you tear open the outside envelope, out they all tumble. Very involving.

These mailers have been tested in various ways. They rarely (in my experience) work as well as the conventional mailing in an envelope in terms of percentage response. But because they cost so little, they can be more effective, particularly when you are going for inquiries or sales requiring a relatively low commitment.

The answer, again, is to work out how much a sale is worth to you, and use the more cost-effective format. You could be pleasantly surprised.

The co-operative mailing – A medium which, so far, is relatively underdeveloped in most countries. But I think, with the postal costs we have to pay, it is bound to develop much more.

Incidentally, postal rates in some countries are so high that it can pay to mail in bulk from elsewhere. The unusual origin often attracts more attention. On more than one occasion it has paid to mail from abroad to customers in this country. In Italy, Pepsi Cola once sent a mailing to retailers from the US which was highly effective. Some people mail from Hong Kong, finding it both cheap and efficient.

The co-operative mailer can take the form of a ‘card deck’: a number of cards of a particular size all put in one envelope which goes out to a specified list. This is particularly effective for selling business books. People love to pore through these cards and make a selection.

Another form of co-operative mailing is a long strip divided into spaces and folded into a concertina to get it into an envelope. This too is a very cheap way to reach a well targeted group of customers and has proved very effective for business-to-business, particularly for getting inquiries.

This medium is highly effective for getting enquiries, and is now being well targeted so that you can, for instance, buy space in mailings only aimed at specific groups such as personal computer owners.

If you do have the opportunity to go into a co-operative mailing like this, make sure the offer you are making does not conflict with one that someone else is making. Unless, of course, yours is a better offer; in which case you will do even better than if you were out on your own.

101. What are the main benefits of door-drops?

Door-to-door has many of the virtues of direct mail, but in less degree. By definition, it is less selective, since the logistics of delivering to a particular list using door-to-door would make it uneconomic normally.

Obviously, this medium is suitable if you are in a door-to-door selling business: double-glazing, swimming-pool installations, home improvements, for instance. You can arrange your canvassers or salespeople to follow up immediately after a drop has been made.

May be half the cost – Door-to-door is obviously cheaper than direct mail since you have no postage to worry about and no list to buy. It could cost as little as half as much.

Less control – Unfortunately you can’t always be sure what people who are supposed to stick literature through doors actually do with it. There are many hair-raising stories of vast quantities of leaflets being furtively slipped down drains. For this reason, the more reputable firms have inspectors who monitor the activities of those who do the job. Moreover, the Post Office offers this service.

Therefore, make sure you are dealing with a good firm. I recall a while ago having a drop scheduled for a client which was supposed to go to the financial area in the City of London. He was somewhat surprised – and we were embarrassed – when one leaflet arrived in Berkeley Square, Mayfair, several miles away from the City.

Quality controllable – but lower response. Of course, the quality and content of a door-to-door piece can be controlled. You have the same flexibility in that respect as with direct mail. But the results will be somewhat lower.

That’s because direct mail can usually be addressed to the specific name of the recipient; door-to-door can’t. And, of course, you can find appropriate lists of people with a special interest in your offer which, of course, would enhance response significantly.

Door-to-door magazines – One particular door-to-door activity that works well is where a magazine (usually full of offers) is dropped through household doors. It has been used in this country to some degree, and can work very well. In Scandinavian countries it is one of the most popular media of all.

Postcode classifications – In many countries you can target both direct mail and door-to-door drops more accurately as a result of databases developed from information available in the first place from census statistics.

These statistics enable a particular list or a particular locality to be broken down into relatively small groups of households which are likely – but not certain – to have characteristics in common.

The principle involved is quite simple. First of all demographic information is extracted from the electoral register. This will provide information on household composition by size, sex, age, mobility, and the length of time a particular householder has lived at an address.

It is also possible to identify the likely type of building presented by the address, be it an apartment, a detached house or a farm, for example. Other significant information can be overlaid, such as the result of any financial searches which have been conducted by the courts.

102. What are the main benefits of newspapers and magazines?

Newspapers – Newspaper readership varies widely throughout the world. For this reason newspapers can be more effective as a medium in some countries than in others.

For instance, in the UK and Japan – both small countries – newspaper readership is very high, and national newspapers are very powerful, so the newspaper is a very valuable medium indeed. In America, on the other hand, until recently there has not been anything you could really call a popular national press with comprehensive coverage, though USA Today offer something very similar to this.

However, the oppress is definitely suffering a great deal from the internet.

Project fast – The press is powerful, pervasive, and quick to pay out. In a business based on testing, this last is a characteristic hard to over-emphasise. You can, if you are in a hurry, prepare and test a new approach within a week, and two weeks later you can proceed to roll out a successful advertisement based upon your results.

But once again, the internet poses a strong challenge as you can test and have results in a few hours.

Test availability – Moreover, there is quite a degree of availability for testing, both in terms of A/B splits and geographical breakdowns.

Uncertain quality, not enough colour – You do not control the quality of the print in the press, so for certain products you may find that it is far from suitable. Until recently colour facilities were very limited in the press in many countries, but colour availability is now increasing as a result of new technology.

The press has one additional benefit: it is usually less costly to test than direct mail, TV or inserts. And the ability to project fast enables you to make swift and profitable tactical decisions.

Magazines, in which I include the colour supplements many newspapers incorporate, are another important medium with significant advantages which counterbalance the problems of the press – but with one major disadvantage. This disadvantage is so important that I shall give it first.

Long copy dates may invalidate test – You may have a lead time of weeks before you can actually place an advertisement in a magazine. Add to this the time it takes you to conceive, plan and prepare such an advertisement and you can have a major problem with a magazine.

This is because sometimes a product which looks very good now can be quite out of date by the time you run your ad, particularly when we are talking about technological products.

Better reproduction – Of course, a magazine will usually offer you better colour facilities than the national press. Because you don’t control the production of the magazine you can (and should) make sure somebody goes down to look at the work on the presses. You are about to invest quite a lot of money. And if you don’t do that, you certainly ought to keep a very sharp eye on the proofs.

I aim this advice particularly at agencies. Clients tend to get very, very excitable indeed about the reproduction of their products. I imagine this is probably because it is one subject which anybody can be an expert on, assuming they have good eyesight.

In reality you don’t have to worry too much because I have found time after time that appalling reproduction has had very little effect whatsoever on results, even for products where you would think looks are very important. Indeed, I have come to the conclusion that the public is purblind.

Pulls over long period – Magazines keep pulling in responses for months, and even years. I remember preparing an advertisement to sell swimming pools for my late brother. Two years after it ran in a publication with only about 50,000 circulation it was still producing replies.

Often a good test medium – Magazines tend to offer a fair range of test facilities both in terms of regional and A/B splits. Some offer outstanding opportunities in this area.

Let me quote for you what was offered by the US TV Guide – the largest publication of its type in the world – when I last looked.

106 separate geographic editions, which can be purchased individually, ranging from 58,000 to 2,500,000 in circulation.

A guaranteed weekly circulation (1987) of 16,400,000 copies reportedly adds up to pass-along readership figures of 39.3 million adults and 7.2 million teenagers.

Because it prints two-up, you can get perfect A/B splits of black and white ads in 74 editions.

The four-colour sections in the front and back allow for perfect A/B splits in eight major markets.

So, it is difficult to imagine a more perfect medium for testing. Nor one which at one fell swoop, once you have tested, you can roll-out to such an extraordinarily large number of people at the same time.

Inserts for tests – The magazine insert is a most useful format. It gets high responses, so you don’t need so many to get a valid, reliable result. And it offers almost unlimited test opportunities. You could test ten different inserts in one publication if you wished.

Total control – Because you control the quality and content, you can use any creative technique you like, without fear that some printer at the publication will screw the reproduction up.

I regard the insert as peculiarly valuable for another reason. This is that the insert, by its nature, is something of a chameleon. It isn’t an ad; it isn’t a mailing – it has characteristics in common with the two. Once you have found an insert that works effectively, it is not difficult to develop it into a mailing or into an ad, whichever you prefer.

Use many ways – The insert you place in a magazine can easily be used in other ways. As a bounce-back in your own merchandise when it is sent out; as a billing stuffer; as a ‘take-one’ in retail outlets; or as a piece to go out in other people’s mailings or fulfilment packages.

Many of the most successful direct marketers employ inserts as their number one medium. And they seem to work whether you are dealing with a relatively up-market clientele, like American Express, or with a relatively down-market clientele, like my former clients Odhams Mail Order, who sell cookery cards and the like.

Many formats – The insert is not only an effective medium; it is also one which is growing and developing fast.

Different formats, sizes and shapes produce different results. For instance, stitched-in or bound-in inserts tend to work better than loose inserts.

Formats can incorporate rub-off sections to reveal prizes, or a built-in envelope. These formats tend to overcome inertia and do better than the standard format.

One form of insert enjoys considerable popularity and success, particularly in the US – the multi-page free-standing insert that looks like a small magazine.

They are particularly effective when used by packaged goods firms for money-off offers, self-liquidators and premium offers. They are also used by mail order firms for making direct offers, and catalogue firms to obtain leads. Because they offer a wide range of regional editions, they are valuable for firms wishing to reach particular demographic targets.

They have something in common with the door-to-door magazines and co-operative mailings I have mentioned elsewhere. Indeed, the same sort of firms find that they work.

103. What are the main benefits of TV and radio?

Oviously, sound, pictures and movement. A great demonstration medium – but fearfully expensive if you’re not careful.

In the 1960s the army considered TV would be ideal for its prospects.

In the first place we used the standard TV format – the 30-second commercial. Our client soon found out, as many others have since, that 30 seconds is not long enough to sell anything. The reason is simple. In 30 seconds you don’t have time to convince anyone of anything important, let alone give them the time to get a paper and pencil and take down the response details.

What could have been done at that time – but was never thought of – was to run very long commercials. What was done was to feature the press ads in the commercials, asking people to look for the ads and respond to them.

This proved highly effective. In the UK this form of TV back-up to advertising, mailings or door-to-door drops is still very effective.

In one case where a very heavy door-to-door drop activity took place in the North, a 30-second back-up television commercial increased response by 50 %. In my own experience, television campaigns backing up direct mail activities and door-to-door drops have increased response by anything between 20 % and 40 % for different clients selling different products.

To create such a commercial you do not need to be elaborate or clever. You simply have to draw people’s attention to the fact that an offer is coming through their door and make it quite clear what format the offer will take, so that it is recognised immediately.

Spots as short as 20 seconds and 10 seconds have been found effective in achieving this.

The secrets of success in DRTV were best covered in a book by Al Eicoff of the Chicago agency Eicoff & Firm in his book Or Your Money Back.

Much of the information I give here is contained in much greater length in this book – Eicoff has conducted research which confirmed a number of facts I already knew, but which he was the first to explain. For example:

You need time – The technique I have described developed in the 1960s was using TV as a secondary medium. I have mentioned the use of TV to get inquiries.

You can, of course, do the same thing with radio. But whichever of the two media you wish to use, if you want to sell then you have to remember you need at least 15 seconds to tell people how to reply.

Eicoff believes you need two minutes to create an effective selling commercial. On the other hand, others have conducted tests which have proved (to their satisfaction at any rate) that a good job can be done in one minute.

Demonstrate, repeat – The ideal product is one which requires demonstrations, visually or in sound. Records, books and household gadgets have done well in these media.

These media are fleeting.

This means you need to repeat the commercials a number of times to get real attention. Typically you would run a burst of commercials over a six-week period, then rest for four weeks before trying again. But, once more, this depends on your experience with your product.

Off-peak works – In dealing with TV and radio, many people have found off-peak spots do very well compared with the same money invested at peak time.

Viewers are more inclined to respond during the morning, and ads shown between 9.30 am and midday get twice as many calls as any other time of the schedule.

At off-peak you are not competing with the all-dancing, all-singing £100,000 extravaganzas put out by the big packaged goods firms. You’re up against the dull efforts of the local department store. And, often, old rerun shows. People are happy to stop watching a programme and start buying a product.

Late at night or early in the morning many people are at their lowest ebb: less able to resist your blandishments.

Many people listening to radio or watching at two in the morning may have little else to do with their time save reply to your offer. (I have no research to back this up, just my own belief.)

Shop around … extensively – TV and radio reach a huge audience; in terms of cost per thousand impressions they are the cheapest media of all.

But on TV, production costs are staggering if you are not careful. If you shop around carefully though – I suggest more carefully than with any other medium – you will be surprised what you can achieve in cost savings.

104. What are the main benefits of the telephone?

It’s almost impossible to ignore; hardly anyone can leave a telephone unanswered.

The conversation is two-way; people tell you things.

It gets quick results; within the first 50 calls you get some idea of customers’ reactions; you can modify your script accordingly.

It’s a terrific research medium.

Although costly it should get at least 5 times the response of direct mail.

We use it to check names and addresses and to find out about peoples’ reactions to mailings. What’s the point of sitting there wondering why something works or doesn’t work, when you can ask people?

105. What is the role of posters in DM?

The problem with posters is that the perfect outdoor poster has about five words on it, plus the brand name (or, even better, including the brand name).

They are designed to attract the fleeting attention of drivers – and as such, are a menace, apart from being a blot on the landscape. But five words are hardly enough to deploy any kind of meaningful argument. So a poster cannot be expected to do more than attract an enquiry, on its own. This is how, for example, La Redoute, the big French mail order firm, uses them to generate catalogue enquiries.

Some kinds of poster can do a good job: the kinds that people have time to read, like underground posters. We find them very effective in attracting enquiries on the telephone.

106. Does the fax still work?

Some people find the fax machine works better than the telephone – even though it’s no longer a fashionable medium, having been replaced by e-mail, despite the fact that it has less humanity.

Fax has substantial advantages – advantages often worth paying for now that fax machines are rapidly diminishing in price.

When you can actually see something on paper, it can be conveyed much more precisely – it doesn’t take as much time to transmit information which in speech you might waffle on about. When something reaches you through your fax machine it tends to attract your attention more than mailing would.

Because it is in writing, if it involves some kind of contractual obligation, it can be legally binding. And finally, of course, the fax can be used off-peak, giving you a very low rate per communication. I believe that fax should ideally only be used where the content has an element of urgency.

107. Which spaces do best?

The front of a publication is better than the back. The front page is best (if available) followed by the back. Then the inside-front right. Then the inside-front left. Then the inside-back right. Then the back left. After that it tends to be in order going from front to back.

Right hand pages do better than left. And it is generally agreed that pages facing editorial do better than otherwise – though one piece of research I saw a couple of years ago suggested this was not the case. I have to say, however, that it was for a particular magazine, and I suppose once again the answer is test and find out what does best for you.

Any ad in magazines or newspapers which is next to the letters pages, TV programme pages, or horoscopes does well.

Gutter positions do worse than outside positions. The gutter is the fold that runs down the middle of the paper when you open it out. You want your advertisements to be on the outside edges of the newspaper, not the gutter.

Any ad which is surrounded by matter (so you can’t cut the coupon out easily) will do worse than otherwise.

Special positions are usually worth paying extra for.

If there is a feature directly relating to your product, then a medium that is not normally worth going into may prove profitable. Thus, if you are lending money, a home improvements feature might do well for you.

Once again, as in every other aspect of our business, these are only general rules. Results may vary according to many other factors. A good position won’t save your lousy ad. Now if there are competitors making better offers.

108. Timing: when will you do best?

My experience is based upon the western hemisphere. For this reason the monthly listings I am going to give below apply to our climate. However, whatever the country, here are two commonly accepted facts: the first is that you will generally do better in winter than in summer; and you will not generally do well during public holidays. (Obviously, there are exceptions, like seasonal products which appeal in the summer months.)

Thus, here and in America, for most advertisers the best month is January, and then February. The sequence after that is difficult to place exactly, but September would probably be next, then March, October, April, November, August, May, and – the poor months – June and July.

Then, death on skates: December.

Equally, the days of the week vary. Tuesday seems to be best for many people.

Sometimes, because you can get a very good price from the media, bad months can become good months. And the same applies to public holidays, with the exception of Christmas (only holiday advertisers seem to do well at that time). I recall negotiating for one product a very good deal on Easter Saturday and Easter Monday with the Daily Express. We got our best-ever results in a national paper. And one of our clients put nearly all his money into August, because he got good deals.

In mailings, one other thing is obvious. If your mailing hits a prospect just after someone else offering a similar product, it can’t help. Unless, of course, you are offering a better deal. But such clashes are to be avoided.

109. How can I pay less for media?

There is one overriding principle of negotiation.

This was verified in controlled tests, by Dr Chester Karrass of the Californian Centre for Effective Negotiating to hold true: The person who asks for least (or offers least) will always come out best in a negotiation … assuming his offer is not so ludicrous as to make it insulting.

As long as you are pleasant and not too aggressive never be afraid to make an offer you think is outrageous. This is so important not only in media buying, but in buying or selling anything, including your product or services.

The big mistake most people make is to fear being turned down. So another rule of negotiating is that if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

You will be surprised, if you approach the media with an eye to their position as much as your own, what good deals you can get. You may be sitting worrying about making an offer that will be refused. At the other end the man may be praying for any kind of offer. What have you got to lose? Only a good deal!

Remember, a newspaper is like a railway train. Each day, it runs whether the seats (or advertising pages) are full or not. So if you make it easier for them, they will often make it cheaper for you. In this way, everybody is happy. And that is the best form of negotiation, because you are not just negotiating: you are establishing a relationship.

Ten good deals

Here’s how you can help yourself, and help the media. The obvious opportunities come first.

1. Volume discount
You’ll usually get a better rate if you promise to spend at a certain level.

2. Series discount
Almost every medium offers a discount for taking a series of ads.

3. Run of week discount
You may prefer to go in on a certain day of the week. But the publication may like to have an ad ready to slot in on any day and give you a discount for the privilege.

4. Standby discount
If you have an ad standing by with the publication which they can drop in whenever they’ve got a problem, you should get a big discount.

5. Distress discount
This is the miser’s favourite. Have an ad ready so that when they call you (and you let them know you are always interested if the price is right) you can negotiate a rate just short of daylight robbery.

6. Rate protection guarantee
Rates go up, but rarely, if ever, down. When negotiating, try to get the publication to guarantee you the rate at the time for a given period. It could be a big saving.

7. Special position free
If you have a good enough relationship with a medium, you may be able to get a special position (or time) with no premium. It’s got to be worth it. And there’s no harm in trying.

8. Specified day free
You can do the same with the specific day you want.

9. No payment for solus
A solus position on the page is usually worth paying for. Try to get it free, if you can.

10. Soft period
When space is hard to sell, and easy to buy, that’s known as a soft period. You should make hay then.

Finally, there’s the perfect deal. The PI or per inquiry deal. There are few times in life when you can get something for nothing, but this is the next best thing.

You know how much you want to pay for an order or inquiry. The publication (or list owner) knows how much he wants for the use of his medium. If you can agree with him that you will pay so much per sale or inquiry, and he’ll take it, then what could be more perfect?

Several TV stations in the UK were trying this method with direct advertisers for a period until an outcry from other advertisers forced them to stop. However, in most areas you will find somebody willing to have a go.

PI is the perfect way to test a new medium. The sales rep will tell you what a marvellous medium he is offering you. You will wonder. The best way to find out is to do a PI deal.

In the end it will be to the interest of both parties. If only all media would do it, media buying would be so simple!

But one word of advice. No matter how well you negotiate people down, don’t boast about it. Keep quiet, and protect your deal.