A Guide to Direct Mail

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(1) Is DM for you?

(2) Choosing your list

(3) The Offer

(4) Call to Action

(5) The Package

(6) The Copy

(7) Testing

(8) Tracking

>>History of DM<<

History of Direct Mail

Based on a chapter from Effective Direct Advertising, (c) 1921.  

The Process of Printing Is Brought to the New World.
Strange as it may seem in the light of present history, all writers agree that the first printing press in the New World was established in the city of Mexico. Penn's pieces previously referred to, it will be remembered, were printed in England. The date of the establishment is also agreed upon as in the sixteenth century, but statements as to the exact details differ considerably.

One account, has it that the first Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, who went to Mexico in 1535, established a printing office some years before 1551. This account also bears the statement that. Joannes Paulus Brissensius, or Lombardus, a native of Brescia, Italy, was the first printer in America.

One of his books, printed in 1549, was for quite a long time cited as the first to be printed in America. Still another version, deemed more reliable by informed persons, is that printing was first established in Mexico by the Spanish missionaries. This statement is supported by the existence, in a private library in Madrid, of a book bearing the date of 1540 and printed by Juan Cromberger, who died in 1544. According to this evidence Cromberger would appear to be the first printer in America.

Accepting either conjecture it is quite certain that the printing press was actively employed in Mexico less than a century after it was generally known in Europe and nearly a century before the first press was introduced into the confines of what is now the United States. All this, however, is of historical interest only ; there is no trace of any direct advertising produced by the Mexican printers.

In 1818 the Columbian press, an invention of one George Clymer, of Philadelphia, was taken to Great Britain and patented-an indication that America was interested quite early in perfecting the mechanical means of advertising.

It was not until the close of the Civil War, about 1865, that the patent-medicine houses began to flourish and the use of direct advertising became anything like general. The almanac was the chosen form of such advertisements, aform almost in disuse to-day except among this same class of advertisers.

Charles Francis in his book "Printing for Profit," which covers fifty years of printing experience, tells us that : "When the introduction of photo-engraving brought down the price of pictures, they rapidly came into use in the price lists, and about 1875 we began the use of the more dignified term `catalogue' in addition to price list."

It is interesting to note that in the year 1888 the printing industry was not considered important enough by R. G. Dun & Company to make a separate classification of it in their annual review. Previously they had included it among the list of fourteen "other industries." Now it ranks sixth in the United States.

Direct Advertising Is Mentioned in First Issue of Printers' Ink.
In the first issue of Printers' Ink, dated August 1, 1888, George P. Rowell, founder of the publication and America's first advertising agent, in commenting on the proceedings of the Arkansas Press Association, said: "He printed his letter containing the resolution and certain questions founded thereupon and invited replies from several thousand publishers." This procedure was followed up, according to Mr. Rowell, with "a second circular."

In the third issue of the same publication there was a reference to a certain Boston newspaper which had published a handbook. This shows the early interdependence of direct advertising with other forms.

In the seventh issue, dated October 15, 1888, we find a reference to the Grand Union hotel of New York, as having issued "An advertising device, a guide-book of New York City. The pamphlet consists of 128 pages and map."

The first reference to a circular letter is found in the fifth issue of Printers' Ink where the Gem Piano and Organ Company of Washington, N. J., is referred to as sending out a "circular to newspaper publishers in the guise of a manuscript letter." This quotation plainly shows, that the so-called "deception" of form letters was given early consideration.

A few mechanical improvements affecting direct advertising will be worthy of note: There came.the linotype in 1884, though it was not used for commercial work until 1894; the monotype in 1900, and other improvements in engraving, binding, folding, and so on. These will be treated as subjects in other sections.

While not all direct advertising is mail-order advertising, as we shall see in Chapter II, the rise and growth of the mail-order business deserve a paragraph historically be-cause in this business great strides were made to. improve direct advertising from the mental and strategical angles while the printers were at work improving it mechanically. A nationally known cloak and suit concern in New York City began business, for example, with an appropriation of $500. To-day it employs nearly four thousand clerks, be-sides tailors and other factory hands in four factories occupying some twenty acres, and does a business of many millions of dollars per annum. 

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