OF THE comparatively minor forms of direct advertising the more standardized types will be post-cards, mailing cards, return cards, blotters, illustrated letters, portfolios and sales manuals. Some of these are likely to be- used occasionally by almost every large direct advertiser, and certain advertisers may use one or more of them habitually.
As all forms of direct mail have the same or a similar purpose in view, and as some of them differ only in detail, it is evident that the attempt to draw hard-and-fast boundaries for their use is unwise and futile. The judgment of the advertiser himself and the expert advice of his agency and printer will help him to form sound conclusions as to which type will be most effective and economical for a special purpose.
The mailing card is a convenient and widely used form of direct advertising mainly because it has high attention value, makes no serious claim on the recipient’s time, and can be produced cheaply. But its advantages have been to a considerable extent offset by the postage rates that became effective on April 15, 1925, under which the post-cards or private mailing cards, apart from the standard government postal card, carry a rate of two cents instead of one cent. Larger advertisements in card form carry the rate of one and one-half cents for each two ounces instead of one cent as formerly. These, like almost all other direct mail advertisements of whatever form, come under the classification of third-class mail, provided their weight does not exceed eight ounces. Everything over eight ounces, unless it be first- or second-class mail, automatically becomes fourth-class, or parcel post.
Now it is obvious that anything that can be told on a card can be told equally well or better in a folder or booklet; and it seems inevitable that the increased postage rates will adversely affect the use of at least the smaller private mailing cards, on which the rate is actually doubled. The larger forms of printed advertising cards have not been affected, because the increase of fifty per cent in their carrying rate applies likewise to all other forms of direct advertising that might be substituted for them. No change in postal regulations can affect the utility of the mailing card, but concerns only its cost of distribution.
All that has been said of broadsides applies with equal force to large mailing cards. There is no limit to their size except practicability, and the message may be made very striking, impressive and easy to grasp. If the card is mailed flat, however, it runs the utmost danger of being broken and cut in the mail. The chief distinction between a folded mailing card and an ordinary folder or broadside is in the stock used. The card will be on heavy paper, such as double thick Buckeye Cover, or on a cardboard. To fold such papers or boards without fracturing the stock requires care and skill. Every fold must be intelligently scored before the fold is attempted. On the whole, if large size is desired, we can see little occasion to use the card stock, as the drawbacks would seem to outweigh any possible advantages.
The main argument in favor of the card, whether large or small, is that it is presumed and intended to get direct and immediate action. A business man receives a card. It attracts his attention and he reads it. It conveys a suggestion to buy, perhaps, and it probably refers to but one specific thing. If his desire is sufficiently aroused, he may send an order immediately. When the article advertised is small and comparatively inexpensive, it pays to make it convenient to order by making part of the mailing card in the form of a perforated card or coupon, which may be torn out, filled in with a name and address, and posted with the very minimum of effort and time.
Card messages must be brief and simple. To go into argumentative detail on such a medium would be injudicious, because the card must be regarded as the most ephemeral of advertisements. It forms its impression, creates its incentive, perhaps induces immediate actionand disappears.
Because it carries its message briefly and treats of but one item or phase of a campaign at a time, the mailing card is often used in series. It is a reminder, and it can give some continuity to any campaign.
As an agency of introduction for more elaborate advertisements it has a place. It may create a certain amount of curiosity about your catalogue before it is received, or it may serve to recall some-thing of interest in it after your catalogue has been laid aside and passed from immediate attention. The response brought by a mailing card may tell you whether it will pay to send your elaborate samples or your expensive catalogue to a particular prospect.
Likewise the card may precede and present your salesmen. It is not so effective as a personal letter, of course, but it does help to get your salesman an audience if his customer or prospective customer has been informed that he will call at 10 A. M. on the following Wednesday. It is a subtle appeal to his courtesy to at least receive a man who has taken the trouble to inform him of his coming.
But under postal conditions that make the mailing card as expensive as a letter, the incentive to use this form of advertising habitually is removed. The card might be enclosed in an envelope and accompanied by a letter, with no additional expense for postage.
The use of return cards sent with advertising for the purpose of making it convenient to send inquiries or orders is subject to the same difficulties, but perhaps in a less degree. They are objects of convenience rather than economy. The man who is interested in an advertisement but fails to respond to it, fails because of negligence rather than economy. If it is very convenient for him to respond at the moment when his interest is aroused, he will hardly decline to do so because the postage is one cent more than it formerly was. But if it is not convenient to write at the moment, the chances are that the whole matter will be forgotten unless his interest is unusually great. The Postal Act of 1925 may have an important bearing on the plans of advertisers who have been accustomed to send out stamped mailing cards. If the list be large the doubling of the postage may become a serious matter, because it will be recognized that, in any case, only a limited percentage of returns may be expected.
It should be borne in mind that any post-card becomes first-class mail if there be any writing upon it. Postage must be paid on weight at the first-class rate if the card, carrying any writing, is above the government size limitation of 3 9/16 inches by 5 ?6 inches. Cards of that size carry the two-cent rate.
Illustrated or “four-page” letters are a form of direct advertising, and are discussed more in detail in the chapter on letters.
Portfolios are simply portable receptacles for detached papers or prints, but in the language of advertising they have come to include the contents as well as the container. The term has further been stretched to include what are in reality loose-leaf books.
As a rule the portfolio is a fairly elaborate thing. If its use be one of special importance it may be expensively constructed, and leather, or one of the fine synthetic leathers so widely used, substituted for paper. The durability required, the character of the people who will receive or see it, the importance and dignity of its contents, and the number of copies required, are all considerations that will determine the quality and the amount of money that can judiciously be expended in its manufacture.
A common form of the less expensive portfolio is that made of cover paper. It is usually an elaboration of the envelope, and may contain a number of compartments for the separation and classification of its contents. Of course, a fastener is necessary, and the ordinary type, such as the string-and-button, may serve the purpose very well. If paper is used it should be dark in color as well as strong. Black Buckeye Cover is used for a very large number of portfolios.
There can probably be no such thing as a definite and accurate classification of portfolios, either as to size or use. An especially common practice by manufacturers who advertise nationally is to send to dealers and salesmen portfolios of a series of national advertisements to show how the merchant is backed up by general advertising. A series of direct mail pieces that is supplied to dealers can be equally well displayed. Either is a powerful aid to the salesman in establishing new outlets. He will himself no doubt carry a similar portfolio.
Letters that are in series and suggestions for form letters can be most practicably displayed by the use of a portfolio. They are always available and are always in order.
It may be justifiable to supply very important customers or agents with elaborate and enduring portfolios. The automobile industry is a typical user of this type of fine productions. If a series of new models is brought out, the cars may be beautifully pictured and a portfolio of these prints sent to the agencies, where it can be shown with great effect to prospective customers. Actual photographs are often effective advertisements. They may include product, factory and installations. The portfolio is always the logical way of displaying photographs.
Educational materials may well be assembled in a portfolio; but where the presentation of essential information is the primary or sole purpose, the book is called a sales manual, and will be discussed separately. Perhaps the most common size in portfolios is that which takes the 8 1/2 X 11 letter, but the size is always dependent on what you wish to enclose, and is limited only by convenience in handling.
The so-called bulletin is but a modification of a letter. It is usually educational and instructive in purpose and also carries the suggestion of an announcement. Its main advantage is found in the fact that it unconsciously impresses the recipient as being of more importance than a mere advertisement, and it is more likely, for this reason, to command attention. Very often bulletins are punched so that they can be conveniently inserted in a ring binder, and it is wise to make them of letter size or of a size that is adapted to standard binders, if they are in series and it is desired that they be preserved. Technical or quasi-technical information is best sent in bulletin form.
The sales manual is a guide and help for the seller, and its most practical form is the loose-leaf book, so that it can be kept always up to date. The contents should be complete and include all necessary information about the product and its possible uses, its selling points and special advantages. As new items are brought out, new uses developed, and new arguments conceived, they can be added. The manual is purely educational, and is intended for the use of salesmen, agents and distributors, rather than the customer. The value of a manual to a new salesman is so apparent that almost every firm having commercial travelers employs this practical device. Whether illustrations can be used to advantage in the sales manual depends altogether on the product. If pictures make the story clearer, by all means use them.
The last form of direct advertising we shall mention is the most elegant of all, and its use is increasing enormously from year to year. The announcement is an important factor in every business which makes any pretension to dignity. More than any other business device the announcement bases its appeal on good form. Its employment in business is comparable to good social usage.
The fine deckle-edge printing papers, such as Buckeye Antique Text, are especially adapted to this type of advertising, if it may be so designated. It follows that matched envelopes should be used and the best quality of printing or engraving. Even the language may be formal. The underlying thought is impressiveness, and this must not be lost through negligence in detail or flippancy of treatment.
The high-class tailor has probably adhered more closely to the announcement form than any other merchant. It is a custom that comes down from the distant past. His business is seasonal.
His patrons may be persons of importance and consideration. Therefore, he will send them a formal card in the spring and autumn, announcing the arrival of his new fabrics and inviting their inspection. The important brokerage house may announce, most correctly, the elevation of an employee to a partnership. Even the great law firm may with propriety tell of the coming of a new associate.
The development of the announcement into a more formal type of advertising has gone on steadily. The fashionable milliner announces the arrival of new designs from Paris, or the great department store advises its patrons of a seasonal opening. In this type of announcement art may be introduced, usually in the form of dainty and suggestive sketches.
Thus in the course of business every new enterprise, every change of personnel, every new departure in policy, becomes the subject of an announcement. A certain formal dignity and close adherence to the dictates of good form and sound taste are the first considerations, and of course this atmosphere must be pre-served by the use of beautiful paper and fine printing. The announcement is the most personal of business communications, exceeding in compliment and effect most actual business letters. Cards of greeting, so largely used among business friends, are closely related to announcements in their form and purpose, but they are primarily expressions of appreciation, remembrance and good-will, and their advertising significance must rest entirely upon sentiment.