Bill Jayme: To the Letter

The industry lost another copywriting legend with the death last month of Bill Jayme. A true creative type, Jayme’s copy was evocative and witty as he used simple words to paint elaborate pictures that so many others didn’t see.

It didn’t matter that the call-to-action might be buried toward the end of the piece, as in his “Cool Friday” subscription acquisition effort for Life magazine that broke all the rules of direct mail at the time. Instead, Jayme took his reader on a journey: “It was a cool Friday in November. Plymouth offered their newest model for $510 – in an ad that also reminded you that you could tune in on Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour any Thursday from 9 to 10. … The WPA was dropping 3,000 ‘non-essential’ workers – and the Post Office began assigning the first Social Security numbers to 26 million applicants. The football season was almost over, with Pittsburgh, Fordham and Dartmouth named the leading teams in the East – while a Princeton sophomore reported that he had bid and made a redoubled grand slam with 13 spades.”

Frank Johnson, who died in March, got Jayme started in his copywriting career, hiring him in the circulation department at Time-Life. Jayme went on to become the consummate master of the direct mail letter, an art that has lost favor these days. Oh, for a simpler time.

Off to Boston

Judging by the number of companies bombarding people signed up for this week’s catalog conference, it’s going to be a busy one. Though fewer companies are exhibiting this year, down from 320 to 260, most of that loss is in the dot-com realm (see our conference preview section, pages 53-72). Exhibitors filled DM News’ mailbox last week with enticements of Latin cigars, secrets to mailing discounts and even money, the most persuasive loyalty incentive around. Interestingly, only two – Focalex and Inceptor – included a letter with their mailers. Guess those letters really have lost favor.

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