Saturday, September 20, 2008

Camouflage the ordinary with glamour, or at least history

My favorite magazine is the Smithsonian, published by the distinguished Smithsonian Institution. History, geography and anthropology are all article topics, all written with attractive eloquence. Interestingly, most of the advertisements are direct response, and from companies with superlative quality.

The magazine has seven million monthly readers (see Smithsonian Magazine ) so has quite a reach and began production in 1970 with Edward K Thompson, who left his post as editor at Life magazine. The creative strategy for the magazine is to “stir curiosity in already receptive minds.” The clientele are already interested in history, travel, geography, anthropology, archeology and the other fun sciences and subjects. The advertisements, not surprisingly are about these themes also.

The Stauer company places direct response advertisements in the Smithsonian magazine. They have been doing so for at least three years. My wife throws away old magazines so I only have issues back to 2006. But there is the Stauer ad, 2006, 2007, and 2008. The ad must be working to keep it for nearly three years.

Stauer is a watchmaker (see their Web site) that specializes in historic designs from the golden age of watchmaking. They are also jewelers and sell coins and other collectibles but the ad in question is for a watch. Not just any watch though, they are remaking long forgotten designs using modern materials.

Spiller and Baier say (2005, p 125) that the headline is “possibly the most important element of a direct response print advertisement.” The headline for Stauer’s ad is “World’s most valuable timepiece disappears.” There are other headlines in different issues but they capture this theme: We are losing part of our history when a culture’s plastic arts disappear, including metal work, leather work and watch design. Stauer includes lengthy copy in the full-page ad describing the history of the watch they are now remaking.

According to the Elaboration Likelihood Model this is central route processing. The greater our communication engagement with the other party the more likely that party will use what the model calls central route processing, which is to say a great deal of message related thinking. Media appropriate for in-depth thinking and evaluation of the message is used in such a case. Cacioppo and Petty (1986, p 673) state that when:

“the elaboration likelihood is said to be high. This means that people are likely to: (a) attend to the appeal; (b) attempt to access relevant associations, images, and experiences from memory; (c) scrutinize and elaborate upon the externally provided message arguments in light of the associations available from memory: (d) draw inferences about the merits of the arguments for a recommendation based upon their analyses of the data extracted from the appeal and accessed from memory; and (e) consequently derive an overall evaluation of, or attitude toward, the recommendation.”

This bodes well for the selling of these watches. The body copy can tell the story completely and Spiller and Baier (p 124) note that is an essential aspect of successful print advertising for direct response. Stauer has complete text copy describing the Graves watch, which recently auctioned for $11,000,000, including its interesting history. Finally, Spiller and Baier (p 126) note that the time eventually comes to “ask for action.” Stauer does this after the interesting body copy. Here are the offer details:

  • 2 year warranty
  • 30 day free trial period
  • Not available in stores
  • Three payments of $33
  • 800-859-1736
  • Promotional code GRV378-04
  • Address of company if you wish to order by postal mail

There is a rational deftness to the offer, the product and the medium. A receptive audience is given detail of a glamorous history about the original watch. So Stauer engages them in central route processing. “Free trial” is used as recommended by Spiller and Baier (2005, p 126). The offer should showcase the benefit. Here the headline and copy emphasize the historical interest and exacting craftsmanship to what is really an ordinary replication of the original work of art. This whole direct response ad is characterized by facility and skill.


Cacioppo, John and Richard Petty (1986.) THE ELABORATION LIKELIHOOD MODEL OF PERSUASION. Retrieved on September 19, 2008 from the EBSCOHost database.

Spiller, L and M Baier (2005). Contemporary Direct Marketing. Pearson/Prentice-Hall.

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