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

About Copy
>>Type Faces<<
Paper Stock

(7) Testing

(8) Tracking

History of DM

The following is from a 1921 classic direct marketing text called "Effective Direct Advertising" by Robert Ramsay. Although it may seem strange to the reader that I quote from such an old text (and do so in some other parts of the site as well), I feel that if you can get past the dated language, you will find advice both useful and relevant.


The thought or idea to be communicated acquires or loses force, directness, clearness, lucidity, beauty, in proportion to the fitness of the typography employed as a medium.-GEORGE FRENCH.

Typography Is the Vehicle of Expression.
You have a direct-advertising campaign all planned out in accordance with principles previously laid down, but to express-communicate-that idea to your possible prospects the various physical forms must be duplicated in some way, as we shall take up in Section 327. But no matter what method of duplication is decided upon the words, ideas, thoughts will be conveyed, at least in large measure, by type.

"The New Standard Dictionary" defines type as a piece or block of metal or of wood, bearing on its upper surface, usually in relief, a letter or character for use in printing; also, such pieces collectively. Even if the physical form is a letter, form or personal, it will be reproduced from type. Typography and display are inseparably interwoven, to be sure, and both are means of expression. The six main methods of display-which is in a way the emphasis we would use if we were talking our message-are : (1) Display type ; (2) Body type ; (3) Illustrations ; (4) Color ; (5) Margins and arrangements of pages, columns, etc., and (6) Hand-lettering, borders, ornaments, etc.

In this chapter we shall take up only the matter of typography, the basic-and simplest-form of expressing and emphasizing our idea.

Typography Not to Be Confused with Multiplicity of Type Styles.
In studying typography it should be emphasized early that there is no need for a multiplicity of type styles, and this book will not indulge in page after page of Piquant, Petite, Mon Petite, Paralyzing, and Powerful, families of type styles in all their different ramifications, of body, bold, italic, extended, condensed, extra wide, outline, and the like. You can get an idea of the enormous number of type styles by securing a specimen book from any of the large type-founders; there are as many styles of type as there are styles of men's collars, and at least a few new ones each season. We shall try to stick to the study of typography only ; or, rather, the expressing of the idea by the use of type.

Those experienced in printing will know that the exact size of actual (the preceding paragraphs are set in imitation typewriter type) typewriter type is not the same as of printer's type. Considering elite and pica typewriter type for the moment, Louis Victor Eytinge, in Mailbag for May, 1917, went on record as saying : "Actual tests have demonstrated that elite type generally is more efficient than pica. Not only is it the most generally used style of type-face, but through its compactness and size it permits use of larger margins and between-paragraph spacing. However, there are exceptions."

What Typography Must Do.
Benjamin Sherbow, author of "Making Type Work," Sherbow's Type Charts, and an acknowledged expert on typography, sums up what typography must do in two brief sentences :
First: Attract the reader's attention to the message.
Second: Hold the reader's attention until message is read.

Every planner of direct advertising should make these two sentences a part of his working creed.

Technical Details About Type.
For clarity it will be necessary to take up a few technical details about type.

Almost without exception in every style or face (by this word we have reference to the formation of the letters in a style of type) of Roman type you will find :

Among the other sizes of type are 12-, 14-, 18-, 24-, 30-, 36-, 42-, 48-, 60-, and 72-points, though some faces are found in odd sizes like 41/2-, 51/2-, 7-, 9-, and 11-point. Wood type, used for large handbills, posters, etc., may be had in very large sizes, some of them inches deep.

"The em" is a square, each side of which is equal to the height of body of that type. For example, a 10-point em is a square 10 points by 10 points, thus M.

The 12-point em, known as "pica," is always used as a unit to measure the length (or measure, as it is called) of a line of type, the width of an advertisement, or column. For example, a standard newspaper column is known as 13 ems pica, or 21/12 inches. A few Metropolitan newspapers use the 121/2 ems pica column, however.

"Quads" are pieces of type less than type height for making indentions, filling out lines, and so on.

"Spaces" are blank pieces of type also lower than the type face. They are used to separate words and sometimes to separate the letters of a word. This phrase is "l e t t e r s p a c e d."

"Leads" are thin strips of metal, inserted between lines of type to "open them up"-and like quads and spaces the leads are not so high as the type and therefore do not print. If they printed they would be in effect underscore marks. This paragraph is spaced with 1-point leads. It takes 12 of these leads to make a pica.

This paragraph has 2-point leads, meaning 6 to the pica; other leads are 3-, and 4-point, referring, respectively, to 4 leads to the pica, and 3 leads to the pica. When two two-point leads are inserted between lines of type the spacing is known as double leaded.

Strips of 6-point and 12-point material are termed "nonpareil" and "pica" slugs, respectively.

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