How to craft award-winning Direct Mail Advertising, Part 2

For all my advertising readers out there, here’s a handy follow up to last month’s post on Cannes Lion-worthy direct mail advertising.

Crafting award-winning direct mail advertising is as easy as following these steps:

STEP 1: Use a CTA vaguely referencing a once popular TV show

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STEP 2: Include incentive-based offers

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STEP 3: Harmoniously connect your DM with an experiential piece

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STEP 4: Make a case study

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How to craft Cannes Lion-worthy Direct Mail Advertising

For those who don’t know, my day job is working as a copywriter at an ad agency in Toronto. This post is for all my colleagues attending the Cannes Lions International Festival Of Creativity, the biggest party award show the industry has to offer.

So, how do you craft Lion-worthy direct mail advertising? Follow this handy guide.

STEP 1: Use a solid call to action

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STEP 2: Include a relevant offer

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STEP 3: Engage your consumer with meaningful content

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STEP 4: Create a case study showcasing the piece’s effectiveness

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STEP 5: Profit

Take Me To The Nosebleeds

Full disclosure: I’m a huge baseball fan. Specifically, I’m a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. I grew up watching the team and caught their back-to-back World Series wins at the impressionable ages of 8 and 9. Maybe that’s why hockey never took hold of me the way baseball did. I’ve always followed the Jays and the sport very closely. That’s why I like to think of myself as a pretty reasonable fan. I know there are ups and downs in every season. I know a game doesn’t end when your team falls behind in the 5th inning. I know that with a 162 game season, eve the best players and teams waver and struggle. So I feel like I can fairly say that last night, sitting in great seats in the 100 level at SkyDome, I was surrounded by the worst fans our city has to offer.

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I should start by saying that I have season tickets, but my seat is up in the 500s. The nosebleeds. That’s where I watch the majority of the 20+ games I go to every season. I got a seat in the 100s last night thanks to my girlfriend’s parents, and it was one of the best views I’ve ever had at a Jays game. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure any of the people sitting around us were enjoying themselves. It actually seemed like they were angry that they were even there.

Up in the 500s, people tend to enjoy themselves. Sure, there are people who are paying more attention to their beer than the game. But they cheer when the Jays score. They cheer when the Jays are in a jam and the pitcher’s trying to get out of it. They may have only paid $15 for their ticket, but they want the team to win. Or maybe they just don’t really care. Maybe they just want to have a good time and that’s why they cheer. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that the people sitting down in the 100s last night wanted to be angry. They wanted the Jays to lose. Because only then would all their negative thoughts about the team and this season be confirmed and they can go around declaring their “I told you so”s. Early in the game, I heard numerous people cursing R.A. Dickey, the Jays’ starting pitcher, as he struggled to not pitch a perfect game. Even more people were bemoaning the fact that Jose Reyes, newly returned from the disabled list, didn’t get a hit every at bat. One sterling gentleman in front of us went so far as to call Reyes a “stupid fucking Puerto Rican” when he went hitless in his first two at bats. Reyes is Dominican.

But it was more than the baseless, racially-fuelled criticism of Reyes (a four-time All Star) that bothered me. It was the fact that none of the fans, if you can call them that, sitting around us seemed to want to enjoy themselves. Last night’s game was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Which to most fans, means it’s a really exciting game. But when the Jays took the lead, I’d hear things like “this won’t last long.” When the Jays were behind in the 4th inning, I heard someone say “I told you they were going to lose.” The 4th inning! We weren’t even halfway through the game and the team had already been written off by its alleged supporters.

As is often the case in sports, the lead kept changing between teams. The Jays were ahead and then they were behind. By the 8th inning, it was no longer just Reyes that was, to use that same gentleman’s words, “a piece of shit,” it was every Jays player that failed to hit a five-run home run in every at bat. With the team was down by a score of 9-7 at the end of the 8th, the game and season was widely being decreed to be over. Many of the people seated around us left the game disgusted yet exalted by confirmation of their eternally negative mind.

Then, in the bottom of the 9th, this happened:

The Jays won thanks to a walk off hit from their best player Josh Donaldson. But it was also thanks to a key hit from Jose Reyes. Now the meatheads loved him, at least until the last player had crossed the plate. Then I heard “the Jays didn’t deserve to win that one.” They couldn’t even enjoy a win.

The way I see it, if you feel that way about the Jays and you’ve got tickets in the 100s, you don’t deserve to sit there. Paying $60 for a ticket might make you feel entitled to complain and boo the team you’re supposed to be cheering, but it doesn’t make it right. It just makes you a jackass The Jays and their players are not immune to criticism but aren’t you there to enjoy the game? I know I am. I actually want the team to win. And I’d rather sit with people who feel the same way.

Enjoy your field level views with the clueless commentary. I’ll be in the 500s.

The Miracle Of Disappointment

We’re all going to die. But we don’t appreciate it. We don’t really know it. My Dad routinely tells me that you don’t fully appreciate the finiteness of life until your first parent dies. I would like to think I understand that, but I don’t since both my parents (and both step parents) are still alive. I think we’re all fully aware that we’re going to die, but we don’t appreciate it in the slightest. We will one day after we experience some traumatic, life-changing event. Only then will we truly understand the unique randomness of life, if not the miracle of it.

I say this as someone who hasn’t had that experience yet, but knows it’s coming. I know I don’t appreciate life enough, and I don’t think many people do. How else do we let our lives be consumed by a series of disappointments? Think about it: how many people do you know that are satisfied with their life? How many of us exist from one tiny grievance to another? We’re always looking for something to be disappointed by. If we didn’t, we would have no choice but to be happy.

We’re trained to seek some perfect life free of problems, grievances or annoyances. Somehow we’re led to believe that life should be easy and idyllic, even though that goes against everything we witness on a daily basis. It seems like we live with this expectation until someone close to us dies and we realize how fragile life is and how much time we have wasted being dissatisfied. Or at least I assume that’s how it goes. I haven’t experienced loss on that scale yet.

I choose to believe not everyone is so self-centered, so entitled to their own desires that they truly think the world is out to get them. We’re all caught up in trying to make our lives perfect instead of stopping to realize what we have is pretty great. And before I start turning into a self-help guru, I should say I don’t know how you go about doing this. I don’t know how to stop being disappointed when something I wanted to be amazing only turns out to be pretty good. I wish I did, because disappointment is a lousy way to get through your day.

Good things happen to most of us every day. Somehow we tend to only focus on the things that disappoint us. Just like I’m going to be disappointed by how few page views this gets. We’re privileged to only have to worry about such ridiculous things. Isn’t it great to be alive?

Gone And Also Forgotten

This past weekend, I went back to my university, Simon Fraser, to walk around the campus. I hadn’t been there since 2008 when I returned for my convocation ceremony. I’m in Vancouver for two weeks thanks to a work trip, so I used some of my free time to go up to SFU. I’m not sure if I did this in hopes of reigniting some kind of nostalgia or bringing back a wave of memories, but I wasn’t expecting the experience that I had: I didn’t feel anything.

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Sure, certain buildings and spots around campus reminded me of things my friends and I had done or classes I had taken, but I felt completely removed from those memories. It’s not so much that they didn’t feel like they never happened, it just felt like they were gone. They’re not part of my life anymore. SFU is no longer part of who I am. That’s a strange thing to think about a place that, without question, helped shape the person I have become. But what hit me as I walked around was that I no longer belong there. It’s not my place.

That’s a weird feeling to have about somewhere that played such an integral role for 4+ years of the most formative period of my life. When I was last at SFU in 2008, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and an almost unbearable longing to go back and experience it all again. To be honest, I half expected to feel that way this time. I thought walking past old classrooms, residence and The Peak office where I spent so much time would make it all come rushing back. But that didn’t happen.

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Seeing homemade posters of candidates running for student government made me smile at the thought of the futility of it all. The cloud of fog passing over campus made me wonder how we ever endured months of total dreariness. The new buildings and renovations of older ones made me realize every university student probably never gets to see the full benefits of all the tuition they paid. Everything there felt familiar, but no part of it felt like home.

And it was strange for me to realize that it’s not my home anymore. SFU belongs to other people now. As it has since I finished my classes in 2007. Universities have ever-changing ownership, at least in the way students and teachers help shape and define the post-secondary experience. As much as I want to feel like I still belong at SFU and believe that I still mean something to that school; I don’t.

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This is a hard thing to realize for anyone who had the standard university or college experience. And I think a lot of people probably can’t ever really accept it. We’re constantly told university is supposed to be the best years of our lives and all that. But I don’t think anyone should ever think in such definitive terms. I’m glad for what happened to me when I went back. I’m glad I didn’t feel like I belonged. I’m glad I didn’t ache to go back. The last thing I would want to do is live my life clinging desperately to four years as the only part of it worth remembering, cherishing or wanting to experience again.

There should be more to life than nostalgia.

John Madden Is Everything Wrong With Sports

I don’t know how many of you reading this are baseball fans, but I assume at least some are Will Ferrell fans. So you might have heard about him playing every position for 10 different Major League Baseball teams in one day. It’s important to point out that he was playing in Spring Training games. It’s even more important to point that he did this to raise money for charity. Because as much as this was a media stunt, it was for a good cause.

Now, I’m usually the first person to let his cynicism make him question whether he’s allowed to enjoy or approve of something like this. I’ll admit that when I first heard about Will Ferrell doing this I figured he was just doing it to promote Semi-Pro 2 or something. Or he was using his celebrity status to fulfill a childhood dream. But then I watched some video from the day.

Will Ferrell look ridiculous out there. Of course he did. He’s in his 50s. But he still made the play. And more to the point, I enjoyed watching him and clearly so did the players on all the teams. Why? Because it’s Spring Training. The games don’t mean anything. The games are meant to get players tuned up for the season. Sure, some players are competing for rosters spots, but Will Ferrell played for one out at each position. He hardly had any impact on the future of any fringe big league players. He had fun and so did they.

So why, exactly, is John Madden — former NFL head coach and current video game shill — chiming in? Because apparently he thinks what Will Ferrell did “lacks respect” for the “game.” That’s right, John Madden is complaining that a famous comedian isn’t respecting a child’s game played by adults for ludicrous sums of money.

John Madden probably doesn’t care that Ferrell raised money for cancer. Realistically, he probably doesn’t even know. The man’s a fossil that travels the country by bus because he’s afraid of flying. No, John Madden only cares about “respect.” Even though he plays in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am golf tournament which, at its core, is the same thing. But he dismisses the comparisons by saying Pebble Beach has tradition that goes way back to Bing Crosby (himself a shining example of respect).

And with that, John Madden shows why he represents everything that’s wrong with professional sports right now. All the old timers (players and media alike) constantly whine about how things aren’t like they used to be. They say there’s no respect, honour or integrity. Tradition has been forgotten.

Baseball players are too flashy, show too much emotion and look as if they are enjoying being paid millions of dollars to play for three hours a day. NHL players are soft now. There’s no grit in hockey anymore. No fighting. NFL players run their mouths during media scrums when really they should keep quiet. They talk too much shit after games. They should obey the code of silence so they don’t humiliate the losing team.

Put simply: no professional player is allowed to do anything that might give them a personality, make it seem like they enjoy their job or use all of their skill to their full potential.

As a sports fan I ask, where’s the fun in that?

We all watch sports because they are fun to watch. We watch for pimped home runs, end zone dances, emphatic dunks and even breakaway goals. We watch because players that show off are either the ones you love (when they’re on your team) or the ones you love to hate (when they’re not). We don’t watch for cliched quotes, stone faced benches and gentlemanly handshakes after a championship win.

That’s why people were excited to see Will Ferrell to play baseball. It was silly. It was harmless. It was fun.

Fans don’t care about respect. They care about enjoying the game. Something I doubt John Madden (or 95% of sports media) could ever really understand.