Rory Sutherland interviews Jack Gallon, Executive Creative Director, MBAstack

Mail Unleashed Transcript

Jack Gallon

Rory: Hello again and welcome to this episode of Mail Unleashed. Brought to you by market reach. Add in a departure from past programing. We have a creative session today because I'm joined by Jack Gallant. I was the name of Jack Gallant. You almost have to be a creative director. But Jack absolutely is a creative director. In fact, he's the creative director of MBA Stack.  Particularly your clothing, I think gives the game away, which is, for those of you who can't see, is actually a remodeled royal mail bag, a metal bag from your local postie, who managed to find one, if that's right.

Jack: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think this for me sort of sums up what mail can be. You know, it can be something cool, different attention grabbing, but it just needs that little spark, that one little creative idea that takes it from being mail to something really wonderful.

Rory: Yeah, I think that's actually spot on that actually, because a lot of mail is fairly formulaic or a lot of mail is fairly transactional, just that little surprising deviation from the norm has a particular impact, doesn't it? It has kind of no stability.

Jack: Absolutely. I mean, I've seen lots of things, you know, the age-old saying is send out all the door drops, you know, with a big offer on it and everything. And the challenge is then standing out when lots of people are doing that. But IKEA recently did a great thing where they just had that big offer, but they had it as a little .2. something for someone to play with.
They realized that everyone was feeling a bit stressed out and needed to calm down.

Rory: So, you join the dots. And that revealed the offer.

Jack: Reveal the offer. Yeah. And it's so simple and it still is, you know, something very hardworking, something very direct, but it's just far more engaging because they put that little bit of idea in there that someone can play with.

Rory: It's very similar. Someone earlier said, “You know, the nice thing about being creative in direct marketing is you have this stage and you have actually almost more than you do with a TV commercial, more than you do with radio commercial with a page on advertisement. What you can actually put on that stage is simply down to you and the opportunities for general exploration and inventiveness actually in some ways less constrained than they are in what are often considered to be more creative media. Mistakenly, I think.

Jack: Absolutely. I mean, I like to think of it as free-range creative. Yeah. You know, like with a TV ad, you're always told, what, a 15/2, 10/2, 32nd, 48 sheet, six sheet and everything like that. And you know, as you know, creative people don't like being told what to do. You know, they want to run free among the meadows of imagination and wonder and within reason, you can pretty much do whatever you want with mail.
And that's what's so exciting. You know, you can send out something that's digital or something that's just a bit of paper, something that's huge, something that small. You know, you can really do whatever you want. I think that's the opportunity.

Rory: You know, I have this one job. I have this one shot, one opportunity. So, I'm channeling Eminem there for some weird reason. But, you know, you have this one shot at it and in which, you know, you can actually get someone from stage a behavior to something completely new.

Jack: And I think that's again, it just comes down to flexibility. You have the choice of you if you want to be really sort of pointed and say hardly anything you can do, it can be very, very engaging or you've got the opportunities. How much for the story, you know, you can use the space, you can talk about more things.
And then of course, it doesn't have to stop there. You know, you can then use it to link on to something digital or, you know, a film experience or something like that. I mean, I've even sent out little, tiny DM packs. I've got little screens in them. So, you can, you can send things out like that, and people can actually watch a film and things like that. So, there's, there's loads of opportunities, you say to either just be very direct.

Rory: Not to mention the resurrection of the QR code.

Jack: The QR code, the.

Rory: Great beneficiary of. Yeah, yeah.

Jack: Exactly. You know, and then that can obviously link to then the digital experience, you know, which is, which is brilliant though.

Rory: And so, it strikes me that actually using digital to identify an audience, so then mail to harvest ends would be a very, very sensible combination. But because of probably silo effects, it doesn't get used that way nearly enough.

Jack: Yeah, I think the problem is that often it's not sort of as, you know, buzzword of an ecosystem and a journey and an experience, you know. Well, I think that sadly mail has become a little bit of the sidekick to digital, isn't it. It's like, oh okay. And do some decent do. Yeah. When actually when you think of it as part of this journey that people could come in at all different parts of different times, actually it can hold up to that bigger story and be much more impactful.

Rory: Yeah. And it also, I think because it's tangible in a way that the rest of the campaign may not be and because it's permanent, it sits on the shelf. We've heard figures in earlier sessions, you know, typically, you know, kept for 17 days, 18 days in the case of catalogs, you know, much longer the complementarity to other media.

Jack: Yes. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I've got a couple of things. You know, something that a very, I guess, cheap thing we'll call it, and something that is then a little bit more expensive. And I like both because they each have really great creative ideas and it shows that you don't need to spend thousands of thousands, you know, as long as you've got something that's different that's going to stand out, you can do something really great with mail.

So, P&O Ferries. They were struggling, obviously, with the likes of easyJet and Ryanair, you know, offering cheap flights. And they wanted to encourage people to come and get the ferries. So, they had this thought that, you know, when you take your car and you go over to, say, France or something, you get more freedom because you can go places, you can drive around, visit more things and things like that.
So very, very simple. They send out a letter and all it was the type of the letter came down normally in a paragraph and then it just wandered off onto the back of the page, looped around and then came back again. So ever so simple, just showing that the fact that you have more freedom, you can escape.

Rory: Sometimes in the airport, you end up trapped in one town, one hotel, one city, whatever. Yeah, yeah. Brilliant.

Jack: So, it's so effective. And that's a letter. All it is a letter. But someone's just thought, well, how can we trust that? How can we do something different with it? And of course, you know, it did very, very well for them. And then something that we actually did a while ago for O2 was for O2 business.
And they had what's called digital advisors. So, if you owned a business, you'd ring up and they would know you by name. So, you don't have to go through the whole thing of like, Hi, I'm Rory. And you know, they know who you are and everything. And we wanted to make the most of this and I got told I wasn't allowed to send a real person out in the post. That's where they draw the line.

Rory: They're very strict.

Jack: Very, very strict about it. Yeah. So, what we did was sent out a hologram and we made it completely personal. So, it talked to them by name, knew their business and everything and talked about all the things that O2 could do. Now, of course, you know, it was quite, quite expensive, you know, but it was sent to the sort of top ten prospects where, you know, the contracts were absolutely huge, and the ROI was massive. It's something like 13. So, it really works, as you say earlier. Like if you pick the right people, find those big fish. And then you do something just for them. Then it can be really, really effective.

Rory: Yeah. And I think persuasive power and the attention-grabbing power is, you know, in many ways an order of magnitude better. You don't necessarily need absolute personalization, just localization, just that extra little sort of factor. Then relevance that you add the piece.

One of the most interesting things about personalization, which I always give as a creative tip, as I said, there are two ways you can do it. You can be super relevant, but another really potent way to use it is just to avoid being irrelevant.
And there was a test we did a few years ago for Boots, where it was a Christmas catalog. Now it was sent to Boots Advantage card members, most of them at the time. I think the ratio of female to male was 7 to 1. And so, the typical catalog was covered with, you know, lipsticks, perfumes, etc. female cosmetics.
And the only change that was made was that when communicating to males, you removed about half to two thirds of the female stuff. And replaced it with electric raises and electrical goods and other things that weren't leaning female, if you like. And that made the male mailing, I think, eight times more effective in terms of its translation into sales.

Now, what's interesting about that is sometimes the trick is not being hyper relevant, it's just avoiding that reason, which is not for me. Yeah, simply removing that thing that makes someone go well, not for me.

Jack: I think that's why as well I often like people to forget that the battleground is if you're sending something out in an envelope, it's that envelope. Yeah. You know, it's like an email. It's the subject line. If you can't get someone hooked at that point, if it says something that's totally irrelevant, you're not going to open it. Or if it's not interesting.

Yes, then it doesn't matter what your message is inside doesn't matter, you know, your great catalog and things like that, you're not getting past the gatekeeper, so you have to make it relevant to that person. So, they want to go, oh yeah, I'll have a bit of that.

Rory: But as well as that, the very tangibility of the thing matters. But also, it's a bit more than that, isn't it? There's more than just a sense of touch. You can actually communicate using perhaps, the other thing.

Jack: I mean, I think the touch obviously is a massive factor in it. You know, we are craving physical stuff as we move more and more into a digital existence, let's call it, you know, that sort of being able to touch things that tangibility, I think, you know, really, really people want that. But you're right. Like you know, a poster that excites the eyes.

That's pretty much it. You know, radio is film. You get both. But actually, with mail, you can do everything, you can get stuff to taste nice if you want. You can get things that make noise. Of course, looking at the whole.

Rory: Feedback of quality of paper, etc. communicates without actually avert the communicate thing. It's very important.

Jack: Important. Exactly. And I think from a creative point of view like that then just unlocks so much more potential because all of a sudden, you've got so much more that you can play with.

Rory: And it's a medium that really repays thinking about, I would say, the simplest definition of creativity is when you do something better than it needs to be done, you know? In other words, there's a satisfactory, rational solution which, you know, is going to tick all the boxes, okay? That what you've got to do is beat that.

And so, in a sense, the creativity works twice over, I think, because it works in terms of attention and memory, and it also works because it's just intrinsically more effective, because it's different.

Jack: When people see it. People love to see things that they've never seen before. You know, you always get that sort of when you've got a great creative idea. Forget the industry, you know, people say like, how do they think of those things? Yeah. And people enjoy that stuff, don't they? They're like, Oh, you know, have you seen this? Yeah, I've never would have.

Rory: Well, Jack, it's been an absolute joy. Thank you very much for joining us on Mail Unleashed and just for the rest of you, just to say, take this learning.

It's a lifetime of learning and a wonderful discipline. Use it and if you want more, why not visit market reach echo dot UK where you'll find plenty more interviews like this and you'll also find plenty more tips and tricks and advice which can really superpower your direct mail effort. So, it only remains for me to say thanks very much once again to Jack, a fellow enthusiast and believer in the medium, and hope to see you next time.