Holiday Greeting Takes Root With Recipients

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You might say that ad agency S3's holiday greeting card planted an idea in recipients' heads.

That's the only way to explain how the card, which lacked a response mechanism, generated a 17.5 percent response rate and one new client.

S3 sent 200 holiday cards in early December to marketing managers and directors at mid- to large-sized companies. Inside was a wrapped fir-tree sapling with a Christmas card attached that read: let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

"We got bombarded with responses from the people we sent these cards to," said Denise Soltys, president of S3, Boonton, NJ. "We did not intend to get any type of response but people were either calling or writing their own letters about how much they appreciated and liked it."

The holidays are the perfect time for an ad agency to show off its capabilities to prospects and clients, Soltys said.

"It's important to show clients and prospects that we view the holidays as an important time to reach out and contact them," she said, "and the holidays also provide a great time for us to be creative and show them what exactly it is that we can do."

Half of the mailings went to current clients while the rest went to prospects S3 had been courting. In the weeks that followed, 35 people either called the company or drafted thank-you letters. Follow-up calls were made to those who replied with letters.

One respondent, a large accounting firm S3 had been trying to attract, called to thank the company for the card and tree sapling, but the conversation quickly switched to business.

"After discussing the card, the woman from this company informed us that they were looking to have their Web site redone," Soltys said. "She said there was someone already bidding on the work but that she would like to see our bid. And we got it."

Soltys said the revenue generated from that client has paid for the campaign.

Each piece cost about $4.25 after mailing expenses.

Soltys said another reason for using a sapling was that it served as an effective metaphor for the full-service ad agency and its approach.

"We wanted the mailing to say something about us," she said. "Using the young tree, we wanted to show that we were about developing relationships and growing with our clients."

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