One of the first assignments I had at Ogilvy was writing a direct mail package for a financial institution. A Trust company. In fact, it was a multi-wave campaign, meaning, over a period of a couple of months there were three separate letters sent to the same people.
It was a time when there were a lot of ‘take-overs’ in the investment industry. The losers, of course, were the customers. Because there were problems during the transition periods, as there often are. Mistakes were made, long time relationships were ignored. These investors felt under-appreciated and taken for granted. They were pissed off. And fed up.
Our client, who had not been a victim of a take-over, wanted to take advantage of the situation. The idea was to demonstrate their understanding, and to extol their own corporate virtues. And to explain all the services they offered, blah blah blah. They were a very successful, credible institution, so it wasn’t a ‘stretch’.
I was very involved in developing the creative strategy, as well as writing the letters. As a result, I was heavily invested (no pun intended) in the campaign’s success. This was also my first foray into direct marketing. I came out of a general advertising (awareness) background.
The first wave was mailed. About two weeks later, the Account Director responsible for the account stopped by my office one morning. He had a pretty big grin on his face, and asked me to come to his office. When I got
there, three huge bags of mail (think Santa’s sacks) were laying on the floor, with hundreds of envelopes spilling out of them.
He handed me a few pieces of paper. Glancing at them, I realized one sheet was a form that had been included with the letter I’d written. I’d also written the form. Essentially it asked for enough information for the Trust company to offer these prospective clients some meaningful advice. If they were interested. In ‘the trade’ we refers to these as ‘response devices’.
To make a long story short, I could not believe what I was seeing. I had obviously touched a nerve. What I wrote really resonated with those folks. And the floodgates opened. All the years of frustration with banks and investment companies poured out. The form we sent didn’t give them nearly enough space to vent. They added extra sheets of their own. Pages and pages of lined paper, literally covered with handwritten notes, were stapled to the forms.
Over the course of the campaign I read each and every response we got. Fascinated. The Account Director and I would wait, each morning, for the mailman to arrive. We’d dump the envelopes all over the floor of his office; and we’d sit on the floor passing them between us.
And I was hooked.
That was it for me. An epiphany. Words can be so powerful. And I don’t mean that in a negative context. I’m not talking about manipulating anyone. Words have the power to move people. To comfort them. To encourage them. To reach them. Really reach them, at a very deep and intimate level. To touch them.
That’s when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that writing was my calling. My one, true passion. That’s when I knew how lucky I am, to do what I do.
It was a very heady experience. Mind blowing, if you will. And my reason for sharing this story with you, is because this weekend I felt it, all over again. This past Saturday I was lucky enough to have one of my stories featured on Freshly Pressed. Most of you already know that, because it’s the reason why you visited my blog.
My point is, the post in question is a story about a traumatic (yet funny) experience I had with my cats. The sheer number of ‘visits’ I have had here, this weekend (and even yesterday) has totally blown me away. So has the number of comments you’ve left. All the experiences you have shared with me. The suggestions. The advice. The commiseration. The conversations we’ve had. The bonding.
Clearly the experience I shared resonated with you. It hit a ‘hot button’. Which is exactly what ‘writing’ is supposed to do. It’s what good writing does. It is so authentic, so real, so honest, we can see ourselves in it. It’s familiar. It reflects our own lives and experiences. Desires. Fears. Hopes.
The power of words.
How I feel as I write this, is exactly the same way I felt when I sat on the floor reading all the stories, all the frustration those people shared with me, those many years ago. Humbled. Blessed. Grateful. Lucky. And something else. Something I didn’t feel then. Couldn’t have, actually.
Awe. I’m in awe of the talent here, on WordPress. Because I have visited each and every one of your blogs. And, wow!
What’s most interesting to me is, as a Creative Director, I’ve spent my career looking for talent. It’s not always that easy to find. I should have looked here.