Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Art Directors Should Never Overrule Copywriters

Adman Bill Bernbach is credited with first teaming art directors and copywriters. The idea spread rapidly across ad agencies everywhere, because it inspired terrific work.

Art director/copywriter teams produce solid work when the members are coequals. 

But when one or the other dominates, the work often fails.

I'll give you an example.

I recently submitted a direct mail package to an agency. The package is meant to convert military officers into association members.

With the account team's initial okay, I took the classic direct-mail marketer's approach: sell a bundle of tangible benefits that the research shows are the benefits most valued by the target audience.

In this case, the bundle included such benefits as free career consulting, free resume-writing, free financial planning, interest-free loans, and a monthly magazine full of expert advice about retirement planning, child-rearing, healthy living, vacation planning, and similar "lifestyle" topics. 

I wrote a four-page letter building up those benefits and "asking for the order."

After two drafts, the art director insisted we scrap the package and begin again.

His view was:
  • You shouldn't tell stories. You should write short and just list every benefit the association offers in two pages. "Military officers are trained to take orders. Just order them to join the association," he said.

  • You should sell lobbying. The whole reason to pay dues is to underwrite lobbying by the association, he said. "Military officers know more about lobbying than the people on Capitol Hill."

  • You should downplay the magazine. "Nobody reads the magazine."
The new direct mail package he ordered up, I predict, will bomb. 

Big time.

The art director's copy direction discounts nearly everything I know about association marketing, association membership, direct marketing, direct-mail copywriting, marketing research, military officers, and human nature. 

It also suggests he doesn't read, he has never joined an association, and he doesn't know much about military officers―or sales, influence, or human nature.

That's not teamwork. 

When the art director wins, the copywriter loses.

So does the client.

(The same goes the other way round.)

So how do you sell association memberships? It's not by selling lobbying. That's "Inside the Beltway" stuff. Instead:

You offer prospects help. People need help. They need help finding jobs, meeting employers, managing expenses, handling problems, staying up-to-date. Sell they ways you can help, and you'll attract new members.

You offer prospects savings. Life is expensive. People want to save time and money, avoid risk, and keep hassles to a minimum. Sell the ways you can save them time and money, and spare them risk and hassles, and you'll convert them.

You offer prospects community. Life can be lonely. People crave connections (it's why they join clubs and churches). Sell ways you can connect themmeetings, trade shows, online groups, webinars, magazines, newsletters, podcasts, videos and directoriesand you'll win them over.
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