LETTER: Kerker Defends 'Pin Man' Image, Campaign's Message

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Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the rather strong negative reaction to Kerker's direct mail campaign (http://www.dmnews.com/articles/2000-06-19/8887.html and http://www.dmnews.com/articles/2000-06-19/8880.html). While we don't feel we have to defend our work, we would be remiss if we did not address some of the concerns you and your readers expressed.

• No human beings were harmed in the shooting of this campaign. Live talent was used and the "pinning" was done by computer imaging technology. Beyond the technical aspects, we feel very strongly that the imagery matches the message. We think that we effectively communicated Kerker's philosophy that "Just because you can take something apart, doesn't mean you understand its heart and soul."

• The results are good. Aesthetics of the images aside, some respondents questioned the effectiveness of the campaign. We can say that it has been a success, indeed. While this is intended to be a brand building -- not a direct response -- campaign, since the first piece was dropped in April, we have been invited to an unprecedented number of new business reviews; we've experienced a marked increase in the number of hits to our Web site; and we've received highly favorable anecdotal response. (The publisher of Remodeler magazine called the series great and wrote, "The latest one with the acupuncture guy is an eye-opener.")

• We tested the campaign. Not a single respondent (which included a cross section of clients, prospects, vendors and employees) expressed concern about any of the three pieces. There's no question that this campaign hits people at an emotional level, not just at a cognizant level. That's what we wanted. To stop them. To elicit a response. You're right that we did not test the pieces individually. They were presented as a campaign. Nevertheless, we stand behind the strength of the pieces, separately or combined.

• The whole picture. It's important to have the full context. As you reported, this is a three-part series. The man-on-the-gurney piece is significantly different from the others. The other two posters are visually impactful, but not quite as stark in their imagery. The woman who is literally segmented by values, lifestyle choices and motivations, and the boy who has gears and sprockets springing from his head reinforce our message that you can't assume anything about your audience; you have to know what motivates them.

• The upshot. We're proud of this work. Yes, it made some people uncomfortable. But they remembered it. It elicited a response. A passionate response. Do we want to be known as a macabre agency? No. Do we want to be known? Yes!

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