Fabulous Creative? Couldn't Tell

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NEW YORK -- A panel of direct marketing's top agency creative executives wrestled with a visual presenter's worst nightmare, poor projection, during a presentation titled "Fabulous Creative and Why It Works" at this week's 33rd Annual Direct Marketing Days here.


"This looked really good at the agency," said Richard Eber, senior vice president and executive creative director at McCann Relationship Marketing, New York, as he presented what was no doubt a fabulously creative series of direct mailers his firm produced for General Motors Corp.'s launch of the Envoy truck. If only people in the audience could have seen them.


The mailers, whose goal ultimately was to get people into GM dealerships asking for an Envoy test drive, featured a series of letters from fictional brothers, one down to earth and the other young and hip, pitching the benefits of driving an Envoy.


The campaign unfolded with the younger brother driving the truck through Europe in various circumstances to highlight different features of the truck. A mailer from Germany (authentic postmark included) showcased the Envoy's high-speed performance on the autobahn, for instance.


Heather Higgins, executive creative director at Foote, Cone & Belding Direct, New York, emphasized the importance of focusing on objectives at the beginning of any campaign.


"Branding is about consumer desire," said Higgins. "Direct response is about what [proposition] will make a consumer act."


Higgins outlined a campaign her firm created for the Gavalia Kaffe coffee club to regain market share the Kraft company had lost to Starbucks coffee shops.


Having been built by classic direct marketing, Higgins said, "the Gevalia brand had become about the coffee-machine giveaway as opposed to the coffee. The real challenge was using the brand to lift response."


According to Higgins, a European-theme branding effort that highlights the Gevalia experience and subordinates the coffee machine giveaway has been outperforming the control.


In an Internet-advertising presentation that ironically featured the most passable graphics of the session, Jan Leth, senior partner and creative director at OgilvyOne Worldwide, New York, emphasized speaking to ad recipients in context.


"The problem for creative [online] is clutter," he said. "People on the Web are searching for specific information, and you have to compete with everything else on the page."


Leth showcased "Rocky and Bullwinkle"-theme Internet ads with sound that his agency created for hi-tech firm Tivoli. Leth said audio banners currently are doubling response rates.


Mike Becker, chief creative officer at Wunderman Cato Johnson, New York, shared his vision of what the future will bring to marketers, including a prediction that 90 percent of print and 75 percent of broadcast advertising will be accountable by 2002. He also predicted that the future will include "sexual harassment insurance and 17 versions of Viagra."


Becker's most important piece of advice for future marketers: "You better learn how to market to the elderly."
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