Direct mail, in which an offer is sent to a prospective customer by mail, is by far the most common form of direct response advertising. The use of mail is widespread due to its ability to personalize the message (the name can be included in the mailing), its ability to convey lengthy messages (printed sales messages can be sent with reply cards or contracts that can be returned by prospects), and its ability to provide a high degree of geographic coverage economically (the mailing can be distributed to designated postal codes). There are numerous options available to companies wishing to use direct mail— examples include sales letters, leaflets and flyers, folders, brochures, DVDs, and stick drives, amongst others.
Essentially, an organization has the option of using solo direct mail—delivering a mail piece by itself and absorbing the costs associated with such a mailing; or cooperative direct mail—delivering an offer as part of a package that includes offers from other companies.
For instance, a film commission may opt for cooperative direct mail campaigns rather than expensive trade show visits or journal ads. One example of effectively using a direct mail campaign would be to send a printed directory or journal through regular post to industry executives in book form or on a stick drive.
The three basic steps involved in direct mail marketing are obtaining a proper prospect list, conceiving and producing the mail piece, and distributing the final version. However, the first step is the backbone of the entire campaign. Both the accuracy and definition of the list can have a significant bearing on the success or failure of a campaign. Companies recognize that it costs six to seven times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one, so they compile databases to keep track of existing customers and form relationships with them through the mail and electronic means. Lists are secured from internal and external sources. There is no better prospect than a current customer, so a company’s internal database must be monitored and updated routinely. In direct mail terms, an internal customer list is referred to as a ‘house list’. As an alternative, companies can take steps to form lists of potential customers. Such customers are referred to as ‘prospects’. A list broker can assist in finding these prospects—those that perhaps mirror the demographic and psychographic profile of existing customers. The California Film Commission encourages locations in the state to maintain a comprehensive film industry mailing list and send out periodic mailers as often as possible to raise profile and encourage location scouts.
Film commissions regularly send out direct mail pieces to potential prospects. The production guide is a common promotional tool, but increasingly commissions are targeting producers with DVDs. Film South in New Zealand, for example, has won awards for its DVD promotional pieces. The California Film Commission also emphasizes the effectiveness of customized photo DVDs to complement digital photo libraries. The Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission video gained extra publicity points by winning a major marketing award. Around 40 of the promotional videos, produced by North Scene, were sent out worldwide, helping to secure hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling worth of film business for the region. The commission’s own regulatory body, the International Association of Film Commissioners, valued the video’s innovative use of aerial photography.
San Francisco ran an effective direct mail postcard campaign in 2007 using the ‘problem- solving’ style of advertising referred to in Chapter 2. The postcards were in the form of one page of a film transcript that reflected the problems of trying to portray a location (in this case San Francisco) when filming in another. The tagline was “The only way to get San Francisco is to shoot San Francisco.”
The role of the Internet in direct response advertising will be discussed in greater depth in Chapter 4. Needless to say, direct e- mail marketing, often eliciting direct e-mail response, is one of the most promising applications in online advertising.