One of direct mail's great tools is the ability to version and tailor your message to different audiences. So in the printed edition of this newsletter, I used versioning to say something different about what it is I really offer (especially during an ad biz slump) to each of my main targets.

Read the one on the left if you're with an ad agency, and the one on the right if you're a client.

IT'S LIKE MY RESUME WOKE UP to find itself prematurely gray. Overnight, it went from being a list of leading Chicago ad agencies... to being a list of ad agencies apparently so ancient they don’t even exist anymore.

Since the start of the year, dotconglomerate marchFIRST fizzled (taking a couple of other places I worked with it); Rapp Collins closed its once-booming (in my day) Chicago office; and now Bozell Chicago is taking the name of another Interpublic agency, Campbell-Mithun.* True, Leo Burnett and DDB hang on for now as rocks of stability—but hey, who knows?

It makes you realize that what really lasts about an agency isn’t the name—it’s what got put in the heads of people who worked there. Every one of those places taught me something— the little shops taught me the power in the details, the big shops taught me to ignore the details and swagger like a mega-brand; the direct shop taught me the tried and true techniques of DR, the online shop taught me to stay afloat amid the untried and new. You can’t hire most of those places now. But call me and you can have them all for the same price.

* Bonus web-only irony: one of New Economy-casualty marchFIRST's offices was in the space of an earlier, Old Economy-casualty branch of Campbell-Mithun.


THE ALLEGED AD SLUMP hasn’t been seen much in this freelancer’s high tech basement, although I have seen a shift in why I get hired—call it ad doctoring, or consulting, or maybe the best analogy is to Victor the Cleaner in La Femme Nikita, the guy who fixes the really bad messes.

• The first stab at direct for a national campaign looked like an ad with a stamp on it—call Dr. Direct (and a fellow Art Pro) to work out a functioning, reply-driving direct format that the staff can replicate in the future.

• A website has a good concept but the 20ish copywriter doesn’t get the mindset of the 40ish business guy target; I do (whatever that says about me), so call Dr. B2B for a T2B (top to bottom rewrite).

I suppose this is a sign that belts are tightened—agencies using who they’ve got until they’ve got to get help. But I think it’s also often a positive thing, that can provide for a more interesting mix of cultures (your shop with all the agencies in my head) than when I work on something all by myself. So if your project’s in pain, call me. I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV—and on print, direct, online, radio....


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