Journal Posts: Advertising

In Which He Writes a Letter That Makes His Hands Shake

Posted 11th December 2014

There's no skool like the old skool. . .

There’s no skool like the old skool. . .

How some old skool print helped boost an online campaign in aid of Parkinson’s UK. 

Earlier this year, I helped promote “Bud’s Run” and “Bud’s Bash” to raise cash for Parkinson’s UK. These two athletics-themed events were held at The University of Birmingham in October. They were the idea of international running coach Bud Baldaro. Bud’s based at the University, and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009.

I’d written the website, media releases, and social media strategy. As we got closer to the big day, all was going well. But I had a hunch that a bit of old skool DM could lift our online profile even higher.

“There’s no skool like the old skool”

So I drafted a four page hand-addressed A4 sales letter to try and drum up some more corporate sponsors. Written in Courier, it had cross-heads, quotes in italics, and a PS that repeated the call-to-action. It’s the kind of job any old skool copywriter would jump at.

Then I wrote “When was the last time you got a letter that made you hands shake?” on each envelope. I used a Sharpie held in my left-hand (I’m right handed). This gave the line a slightly sinister look, which I hoped would feel like a threat or a ransom note.

In short, I wanted to write a teaser message that would be hard to ignore.

The copy inside linked the “shaking hands” teaser to everyday life with Parkinson’s. It introduced Bud and his story. And it explained how Parkinson’s UK needs funds to find a cure for his condition. Then it sold in the benefits of attending the events to the reader.

Bud’s daughter Becky signed each letter. Becky and her brother Jamie organised both events. Their hard work and enthusiasm turned Bud’s idea into an amazing day and evening.

Reaction and results

The letter created quite a stir on social media. We had tweets, re-tweets, and positive blog mentions from all over the UK. Top creatives like Sue Keogh, Sarah Turner, and Richard Weston name-checked us. Parkinson’s UK also helped us spread the word.

The DM boosted an already successful campaign. World marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe flew in from her Monaco home to start the Run. The national and international athletics press gave us excellent write-ups. The BBC website featured our events twice, and Bud was interviewed on BBC One’s “Midlands Today”. Our Facebook page had over 1000 likes. A video of Bud we posted reached more than 11, 000 people.

Most importantly, both events sold out in advance. We beat our targets by raising nearly £25, 000. I’m now chatting with Parkinson’s UK about working together on other projects.

So the next time you’re doing an online campaign, why not try mixing in some print? You may be surprised by the results that a letter can deliver you. . .

Thanks for reading.

Sue Keogh interviewed me about the DM on her company website.

You can discover more about Parkinson’s UK on their website.

In Which a New Way of Creative Thinking Begins to Take Shape

Posted 25th November 2014

Here’s a one minute creative task to get your brain going.

Grab a pen and paper, and in sixty seconds draw the word “year” as a shape. Mark on the months if that helps. Go!

Finished? Nice job.

Understandably, many people set this task draw one of two shapes – a straight line or a plain circle:

Two Ways to Think About a Year

Two Ways to Think About a Year

But can basic shapes like these really convey the idea of a year? Maverick 1960s ad man Howard Gossage didn’t think so. To Howard, a year was “an irregular figure closer to a triangle than anything else.*” Here’s how he drew it:

Howard Gossage's Idea of a Year

Howard Gossage’s Idea of a Year

Like lots of folks, Howard felt some months flew by more quickly than others. That’s why the shape of his year dips, flattens, and then climbs sharply from September until Christmas.

So while Howard believed that ideas have shapes, his drawing suggests they’re often more intriguing and personal than you might first think. And that by thinking about your ideas more creatively, you may be able to have more creative ideas.

Do ideas have colours too?

Howard’s wife Sally has an equally interesting take on things. Sally sees all her ideas as colours. To her, a year isn’t like a triangle at all. Instead, Howard tells us, a year resembles a:

“child’s hoop. . .with the rim divided into brightly colored segments representing months, weeks and days. Holidays have special colours: Christmas is yellow, New Year’s is brown, her mother’s birthday is orange, and Halloween is black. I should also mention that only the holiday Halloween is black, the word Halloween is green.”

According to Howard, Sally’s visual year starts on August 4th – “halfway between the Fourth of July, which is fittingly pink and orange, and my birthday, which is emerald green.”

Follow the yellow brick road. . .

I think it’s important to be super clear about what we’re talking about here. Presenting your ideas in visual form is one thing. Chances are we’ve all used charts, diagrams, and graphs at some point.

But what we’re talking about now is thinking about ideas themselves as colours and shapes. As a creative from a writing background, this is a whole new world to me. And it feels a bit like a jump from black and white to Technicolor.

If you have a brain like Howard or Sally, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about.  But if you’re lucky enough to think in colours and shapes as well as words, what’s to stop the rest of us learning to join you?

I’ve already been chatting to Dean Melbourne, Jenny Theolin, and Cait Watson about putting this new insight to practical creative use.  As always, this talented trio have given me lots to ponder. Updates to follow soon.

In the meantime, why not try shaking up your own way of approaching ideas?

Thanks for reading.

All of Howard’s quotes come from his article “The Shape of an Idea and How to Draw One”. You can find it in “The Book of Gossage”.

To discover more about this remarkable advertising man, check out Steve Harrison’s outstanding book “Changing the World is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man”.

The technical term for thinking in colours is synesthesia.