In late-2012, I had a client, who was a cold name on my house file, buy six months of my time.
Worth it? Yes, but I’ve gotten a severe case of withdrawal.
So, for those who asked why I haven’t been posting, I’ll be more than making up for it with over a year’s worth of content.
I’ll also be tearing down and rebuilding most of my websites, including this one.
Here’s one of the better ones I’ve been sitting on for a while. It’s a 15 ad campaign in one PDF, which you can download through the link below.
In the 1980s, International Paper was locked in a no-holds-barred struggle with five major competitors whose products varied little.
International Paper set out to create a reason why customers should prefer I.P. above the rest, even if only for a feeling of the “warm and fuzzies.”
But can that translate to sales and customer loyalty, especially for a commodity product like paper?
The campaign — “We believe in the power of the printed word” — was a smashing success.
It was conceived by Ogilvy creative director, Billings S. Fuess, who relied on celebrities with credibility in education, like:
- Kurt Vonnegut: “How To Write With Style”
- Bill Cosby (before he became a TV sitcom superstar): “How To Read Faster”
- Malcolm Forbes: “How To Write a Business Letter
- Walter Cronkite: “How To Read A Newspaper”
- And George Plimpton: “How To Make a Speech,” among others.
While the ads were published under the bylines of these well knowns, it was Fuess who spent three to four weeks researching each ad and one week writing the first draft.
27 Million Requests for Copies of These Ads
The initial campaign targeted the 15-to-30 age group, mainly those in high school or college, under the banner of the “College Survival Kit.”
But as these two-page spreads gained attention from widespread insertions, I.P. was inundated with requests for copies of theses ads from all age groups. They later spun off the “Business Survival Kit.”
Doubleday was one of four publishers to put in a bid to publish a compilation of these ads after the fourth ad hit the press.
Can you imagine anything so crazy… print ads being turned into a book? 🙂
But the copies were swept up and out of print copies now sell on Amazon for $273 and up.
Most wouldn’t peg a paper manufacturer as the source of such ingenious product and brand differentiation.
It just goes to show there are countless ideas for creating a competitive advantage out of thin air.
“The Power of the Printed Word”
(20-page, 4-megabyte PDF)
Phil Williams says
Thanks so much for this one – I’ve seen a few of them in the past, it’s great to get them all in one collection. I’ll certainly be forwarding people to read this – advert or not it’s full of brilliant advice for any budding writer!
Rob McGill says
Love the swipe Lawrence.
But, you leave one question unanswered: While there is a ton of value in this campaign, I don’t see how giving away a “kit” about writing, and reading, etc. — can increase sales of a paper company.
Was there an offer included with this kit?
And if so, how many of these leads were turned into paying customers?
I don’t see an offer anywhere. Therefore, I’m led to believe that this campaign was similar to those silly Super Bowl commercials, who seem to think that “getting their name out there” is the same as making a sale.
What’s your take?
The power of the word…and the power of the IDEA! This was thinking outside the box. Great to see this…grateful to see this!
Lawrence Bernstein says
I’m glad you called me out on this one.
And, I have a lot to say about the role of direct response (or direct response techniques) in mainstream corporate advertising that could fill a small book.
Here’s the problem.
How does anyone measure the success of an ad campaign for a giant, publicly traded company like International Paper… whether now or 30 years ago?
Only two ways.
1) Share value.
2) The audited sales figures from their annual reports.
Since 100 or more factors can go into the pricing of the any publicly traded stock, it’s very hard to pin down an ad campaign as the reason a stock would go in… or down.
That leaves us with annual (quarterly) sales figures.
Did IP sell twice as many tons of papers 6 months after the campaign launched?
I will have to get back to you on that.
My main point is that if DR marketers only rely “pure DR” or “do as we’ve always done,” then we’re needlessly limiting ourselves.
And DR like everything else has to evolve. Take print advertising, for example. It’s very different today than it even was 10 years ago — 4 of every 10 newspaper jobs have fallen by the wayside in that time.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment and challenge me on this! I hope to get back to you with concrete numbers… just as long as Arthur Andersen didn’t do IP’s accounting. 🙂
These are absolute gems of print ads. Thanks for sharing them, especially as they were never shown this side of the pond.
However, I agree with Rob McGill. This seems like a monumental missed opportunity and a huge waste of money. No front-end? No back-end? How about asking for postage? Selling a course? Or book? Offering a voucher? Samples of paper? Requesting your printer to use their product for your next job?
Fancy building such a worthless database of 27 million names!
This campaign could have easily been self-financing or even profitable.
What was Ogivy thinking when he came up this one!?
Running DPS for free stuff is like throwing money out of a helicopter!
A 5 inch x 2 col for free stuff would have worked pretty well.
That said, this is a very interesting campaign showing the power of celebrity endorsement and thanks again for sharing it.
All the best,
Lawrence Bernstein says
I wouldn’t mind a database with 27 million names either, though I’m not sure how much more valuable it’d be than a compiled list out of the phone book.
If IP had charged $5.95 (this was the early 80s) for the set of ads, it might be a different story.
Agreed by today’s standards, the campaign seems poorly optimized. But remember, this took place from the late 70s to the mid 80s, before the emergence of the home office, personal computer, web and the arrival of office super stores in every zip code.
The distribution channels for IP’s products to end users were through the old fashioned stationary stores or the work places where their employers bought these paper products through middlemen.
Still, it would have been great to buy a ream of paper or a back to school kit with Tony Randall’ “How to Improve Your Vocabulary” and throw in a few offers that matched the spirit of the campaign.
Glenn Ossiander says
One concrete example of the success of the Power of the Printed Word campaign was that it got a lot of work for Bill Fuess as a moonlighting freelance copywriter.
I hired him based on that campaign. I was the Creative Director at an ad agency at the time. We had a particularly vexing problem with a nitpicking client who was communications director for a trade association of physicians–a bad combination. I assigned my best writer to the account, but no matter how hard we tried, we could not please this guy.
I saw Bill’s anonymous ad in AdWeek (he was was a CD at OM at the time) and gave a call. When he came to be interviewed, and I saw that he created the Power campaign, I hired him immediately! Alas, Bill had no better results than I had.
A benefit to me in hiring Bill was that the agency heads were impressed that I had the confidence to bring in a writer if his stature. When they saw that the client found just as much to nitpick with Bill’s copy, they finally realized it was not me or my department that was lacking. It was just a very difficult client. We didn’t need a better writer. We needed a dentist.
Bill and I went on to work together for a number of years. We prospected clients for each other, after I left the agency and he retired from Ogilvy. One of the best campaigns we produced was for Rodale, the healthful lifestyle magazine publisher. We saw endless variations on that campaign picked up by others for years after.
We stayed in touch for many years, even after I moved to L.A. I believe he died a few years ago.
Bill told me that there was one other objective behind the IP campaign. It was run at a time when agency creatives had lost interest in print. Everybody wanted to work on commercials. The Power ads were an attempt to revive interest. Hard to say whether it worked or not.
I still give Bill’s book to young writers.
Carl Galletti says
Thanks for putting those ads in a PDF.
Actually, there WAS a direct response mechanism of sorts for the set of ads but not exactly what we like to see as a “call to action” but if you called IP and inquired about getting extra printed copies of the sets, for $100 they’d send you a bunch. How much was in a bunch? Don’t recall but it took up two cartons.
I used them to give to aspiring copywriter who took my Copywriter Protege Program when it was in print form, so I guess I’m single-handedly responsible for distributing several hundred sets.
During my last move I threw the remaining sets away except I kept a set to scan into a PDF. Haven’t done that yet and now that you have, that’s one more thing off my list. Thanks Lawrence.
Funny story about them: You’d think that a paper company like IP would have perfectly sized pages, after all they were all printed on “approximately” 8 1/2 x 11 paper (they were printed on two sides) but when you put the sets together the pages were not exactly 8 1/2 x 11 so the edges were off from each other. I thought that was odd but never thought about why that was – still don’t know. Perhaps different printers? Non-US printers? Printed on overrun stock? Who knows?
Anyway, thanks for the PDF.