Toy Inspires Die-Cut Wheel Mailer for Software Firm

A children's toy inspired an advertising agency to commission a direct mail piece for software giant SAP that uses a die-cut wheel to convey messages about a complex product in a simple, compact fashion.

Creative agency Traction, San Francisco, asked its print agency, Andresen, also based in San Francisco, to produce a mail design incorporating the die-cut wheel for its client, SAP.

Andresen initially planned to do the production job itself, but once the mail volume ordered by Traction and SAP expanded from 8,000 to 85,000, the print company brought in Structural Graphics, a firm that specializes in dimensional mail, said Bernie King, account and production manager at Andresen.

The mailer, which began shipping in April, promotes the SAP NetWeaver software. The 5-inch-square piece has a die-cut wheel inside the front panel.

The wheel conveys information in a Q&A format. Recipients can turn the wheel to “If you want to: Unify different data sources into one consistent view,” then flip it over to see the answer, “Improve key processes by consolidating, cleaning and distributing data” by using SAP NetWeaver. Spin the wheel to different questions, and you get different answers.

“You can spin to the area that's your hot button,” said Michael Maguire, president of Structural Graphics. “Then you flip it over and see how this is relevant to you.”

The piece is aimed at delivering a multimedia presentation on a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM comes packaged in a sleeve in the back panel of the mail piece.

Traction CEO Adam Kleinberg got the idea for the mailer while watching his 18-month-old daughter play with a similar die-cut wheel in a children's book. He saw the device as an interesting concept for use in a dimensional mail piece.

Many common die-cut wheels use a metal eyelet as the hub around which the wheel spins. The problem with using standard metal eyelets in direct mail is they need to be placed in a hole that is punched through the entire piece, Maguire said. The metal eyelet sticks out and is visible from the outside of the mail piece, potentially interfering with the text printed on the outside of the mailer.

Structural Graphics opted for a foam grommet that acts as the center of the wheel. The foam has an adhesive on it and is hand placed so it is enclosed entirely within the inside of the mail piece, making it invisible from the outside.

Another production consideration was that the client wanted the piece ready in time for a trade show, so the project had to be turned around in a few weeks. Structural Graphics printed the pieces at a plant in Texas, then shipped them to a hand-assembly plant in Mexico to put the pieces together.

The gold master of the CD-ROM didn't arrive until about a week and a half before the ship date, King said. It was a challenge to coordinate the manufacture of the mail piece and the production and packaging of the CD-ROM.

Direct mail advertising by CD-ROM has become quite common, particularly in the software industry, Maguire said. Though CD-ROMs remain a good way to deliver a complicated demonstration in a small package, it's become more challenging to ensure that recipients take the time to view the multimedia presentation on the disc.

“If you don't do that, all that great demo work gets wasted,” Maguire said.

Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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