Why the Back Page Is Page 2

If you think your brochure or flyer will never be displayed back to front or left lying on a table on its front, then ignore this article and continue living in your fantasy world.

In the real world both of the above do happen. Ignoring the selling power of your back page is a sign to the world that you have money to burn. Who but someone above the rough and tumble of the market place can afford to leave the second hottest page of their brochure blank ? Well, one of my favourite theatres, it seems. I’m not going to name them but I can assure you there were some great shows in their season that could have benefited from a plug on the back page. If that’s too vulgar, the least they could have done is put their name at the top so that someone seeing the back would know to pick it up.

In viewing terms, your back page is page two. That’s why magazines charge advertisers more the back page than any other. Here are two random examples. The Lady charges £2750 for a standard full page but, if you want the back page, it will cost you £3450. Private Eye charges £6000 for a full page and £7200 for the back cover. Enough said. A picture is worth a thousand words so here are three.

Paul Seven Lewis shows blank back cover of brochure display at front of rack
Back To Front
Paul Sevn Lewis criticises blank back cover in middle of rack
Who’s there?
Paul Seven Lewis criticises marlketing error of blank back cover of brochure
Face Down

To remind you, the other hot spots are the inside covers and the centre spread. Please don’t waste them with seating plans, terms and conditions or a list of sponsors (unless they’re paying you a lot of money). Here are two more marketing articles I’ve written on producing brochures 7 Ways To A Winning Brochure and A step-by-step guide to producing a season brochure.

A Step-By-Step Guide To Producing A Season Brochure

Cover of Theatre Royal Winchester brochure
Theatre Royal Winchester brochure

This is how I went about producing a theatre brochure.

With the season brochure providing up to 70% of the audience for some shows at Theatre Royal Winchester, making it as effective as possible at selling products is vital. This is how I produced the last brochure during my spell as their marketing consultant.

The first thing was to gather content, which is to say all the information and images that could be used. This is nothing like as easy as it sounds. If a show is still at the planning or early production stage, there may be no photos, only an ‘image’. The copy may be poorly written.

So I was straightaway faced with a task of rewriting copy so that it sold the show- attention grabbing, benefits not features, making it personal to the reader, telling a story, cutting it to the length required (typically 100 words) or simply changing it into our (my) house style. The consistent tone of voice is important- it says that you chose these shows and back them with your enthusiastic descriptions.

Then I had to decide how to use the content. Which were the most important shows, the ones that were going to be allocated a full page aor double page spread (DPS)? That meant not only the shows that would make the theatre the most money but also those which would sell best through the brochure- drama, children’s shows- and which the least well, for example standup comics.

Sometimes I gave a show emphasis because the theatre needed to build an audience for something new or challenging, perhaps physical theatre or contemporary dance.

There are a number of pre-determined pages: the cover, contents, booking and other essential information, sponsor and funder credits. Some theatres like to include a lot of information including a seating plan but to my mind this is easily available on the website so I wouldn’t take up precious space with it.

Size And Shape

A decision had to be made about the format. This amounts to either A5 portrait or DL (one third of a landscape A4). There are other options but these are the only ones that will fit easily into standard racks. I chose A5 because it gives more scope for design and DL may end up very thick. I would consider DL for a flier or very small brochure.

So, adding up all the pages, half pages and smaller entries, I saw what the total was. In an ideal world, it would be exactly divisible by four because each sheet of paper coming out of the printing press comprises four (or eight) pages. There was also a maximum, beyond which the cost of postage and to some extent printing became prohibitive. For me, that was 36 pages. I could have accommodated more pages by reducing the weight but thin paper makes the venue look low quality.

To make the content fit, some shows had to have their space allocation reduced or expanded.

Next, there was the question of how to order the shows. The basic choice is between chronology or genre. I prefer genre because I think a drama tends to sit uncomfortably next to a CBeebies show or the style of contemporary dance can clash with that of a popular musical. For those customers who want to choose their entertainment by date, I print a calendar with page references next to each show.

Fitting It All In One Brochure

Then came pagination. I plotted it on a grid showing each page as a box, grouped in the DPSs. This is useful if there are a number of items on a page and you want to plan how you’re going to split the page, e.g. one half and two quarters or three thirds, vertical or horizontal splits and so on. A pencil and rubber were essential tools.

Centre spread of Theatre Royal Winchester brochure
Centre spread of Theatre Royal Winchester brochure

Within each genre, I tried to be chronological but compromises had to be made in order to accommodate the DPSs and full pages. I also wanted to make sure I took full advantage of the ‘hot spots’. These are the back cover, inside covers and the centre spread – the pages people are most likely to look at. Even if it meant taking a show out of order, I gave my best ones these positions.

I am appalled at the way some people waste these hot spots. They put information about ticket returns and parking on the inside back cover; they even leave the back cover blank which may be artistically satisfying but won’t sell a single ticket.

The printer must be booked. I like to use a printer I know but I checked with other printers that the price my printer was quoting was competitive. The decisions that needed to made include the weight and type of paper and the quantity. I prefer to have 135gsm (grams per square metre) with a cover of 170gsm. I chose art silk paper because it provides sharp text and strong colour without the distraction of shiny gloss or the dullness of matt. I also arranged with the printer the number of copies to send to the mailing house and the distribution company.

Once I knew when the printer needed the artwork, I worked out the schedule. Deadlines for each stage are important and even if some of them slide, the date for getting the artwork to the printers is immutable.

What The Brochure Will Look Like

Now it was time to bring in the designer. The brief needed to be written clearly to avoid misunderstandings and wasted time. I explained the overall effect I was trying to achieve. My earlier brochures for TRW were intended to be colourful and suggestive of the variety and excitement of the shows. The most recent involved a change of tack in which I was trying for a more classic approach that would be instantly recognized by the theatre goers who were the prime users of the brochure. In other words, consistent layout and fonts throughout and a generally more restrained approach.

Theatre Royal Winchester brochure spread
Theatre Royal Winchester brochure spread

The brief also included the essential elements that needed to be on each page in the same place and look the same for ease of reading: genre, dates, times, prices. The brief emphasised the importance of readable text in terms of font style and size and of good contrast between text and background.

I asked for a few early drafts from the designer to ensure he was working on the right lines. Then it was all go. Inevitably there were late additions to and occasional deletions from the programme which caused re-pagination. Sometimes, as luck and some chasing would have it, better images arrived. Because I knew this would happen, I built in the possibility of a certain number of amendments into the price.

The cover is the biggest hot spot of all. Sometimes an image chooses itself but more often I have found myself desperately asking around for something attention grabbing. What do I mean by ‘strong’? I like to use a face or a human figure. (Look at all the best selling magazines’ covers.) But it also needs to appeal to the theatre’s primary market and preferably sell the top show. I’ve rarely succeeded in finding the perfect image. (Note to producers: take the trouble to supply the right image and you could end up on the cover.)

Season brochure displayed in rack
The problem of a rack display

I made sure the name of the theatre was at the top in case it is displayed in a rack behind other print. I included details of the content on the cover. This meant listing the genres but I could have included the names of big shows or acts. This is because I featured a picture of a drama but wanted people to know that there was also drama, opera, children’s shows and more on offer.

The pages went back and forth a few times to refine their appearance. A good designer will know the rules but I like to check for myself. For example, there must be something eye catching on the left of a DPS to avoid the brain’s tendency to look only at the right page; the back page must include the theatre name, preferably at the top, so people will recognise it even if it happens to be displayed the wrong way round in a rack.

This is the point I showed it to the chief executive or whoever’s in charge. In your organization, that moment may come sooner. It depends how involved they want to be.

Avoiding Mistakes

Then we moved to proofing. I made sure someone from the box office went through it because they have the best knowledge of times and prices. I also like to use someone who hasn’t read it before and who has a good knowledge of English and a meticulous approach. Consistency is something I am checking for. For example, I don’t want to see days sometimes written in full and sometimes abbreviated. I gathered all the mistakes together on one proof copy and passed it back to the designer.

Back come proofs for a final check, then it was time to send the designs off to the printers. A printer’s proof came back in the next day or so. There was a choice between a digital and a paper proof. This is a difficult decision when you have a small budget. For the layperson, which I am, it’s easier to see what’s wrong when you look at a paper proof, because you are seeing what the final brochure will actually look like. However, it costs. What I have found is that a digital proof is okay provided your designer looks at it in detail. He was able to spot tiny registration issues or colours and type that haven’t quite worked in the transition from design to print.

All that remained was the excitement of receiving the first copies of the new brochure and, even after all these years, I still find being able to hold the result of all that work right there in my hand is one of the best moments of my working days.

Print versus Digital- It’s All In The Mind

Theatre Royal Winchester brochure cover
Theatre Royal Winchester season brochure

If you’d asked us ten years ago, we marketing folk would probably have said that our season brochures and postal mailshots were on their way out. More and more people were getting digitally connected, websites were well established and getting faster, emails were all but ubiquitous. We couldn’t be blamed for thinking our print would be going the way of paper order forms and letterheads.

Yet here we are and our print is still going strong. This despite the fact that over 50% of the population have constant access to the internet via smartphones and tablets. At Theatre Royal Winchester, which I market, questionnaires, filled in by about half our customers, tell us the season brochure is still the number one source for their decision to buy a ticket, it can be as high as 60% of customers in the case of a play.

Digital has undoubtedly had an impact. The website is the second most mentioned of our marketing tools. E-shots are now the third best way of selling individual shows.

So why does print maintain such a hold in our digital world? There are some practicalities. Brochures are usually easier to navigate than websites, try as we may to tailor the UX to the visitors’ needs. You can flip through, dip in, and hang on to it through the season. But there’s more to it than that. Research suggests our brains may be wired for print.

Take this study sponsored by Canada Post and carried out by True Impact Marketing1. It found Direct Mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than Digital Media, meaning that it is both easier to understand and more memorable. Print created 20% higher motivation to act than digital. The ratio of these two factors means print is much more likely to lead to consumer action.

More than that, the impact lasted longer- recall of the brand was 70% higher for direct mail than digital. And print gets its message across more quickly.

In a study from Temple University2 using brain scans, physical did better than digital on the time a customer spent on an ad, the emotional reaction, how quickly and confidently they remembered it, how much they subconsciously wanted it and valued it. Digital only scored better on focusing attention on key elements. Other factors like the amount of information processed, how accurately they remembered it and how willing they were to purchase were even-stevens.

This could be the clincher. The ventral striatum area of the brain was activated more by print advertising than digital media, indicating that the former was more successful than the latter at create desire and a sense of value.

Brain scans were also used in a case study by Millward Brown in collaboration with Bangor University3. It found ‘physical material is more “real” to the brain. It has a meaning, and a place. It is better connected to memory because it engages with its spatial memory networks.’  ‘Physical material involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.’ ‘Physical materials produced more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of the ads.’

Two more studies show the power of print. One found that comprehension is higher when people read print4. The other showed that digital readers browse and scan and don’t pay sustained attention5.

Even though print may be a better marketing tool than digital in oh-so-many ways, digital comes into its own when you compare cost. You may not sell so many tickets per e-shot as per mailshot but you can send out thousands of them for the cost of a handful of letters. So I find it’s best to hit customers first with an email and, only if they don’t respond, send a mailshot, and even then only to the best prospects.

The power of print means your season brochure should be your strongest marketing tool. Direct mail selling individual shows may fall down on the ROI but, in one piece of print, a brochure can cover dozens of products, thus spreading the cost and maximizing ROI.

1 Canada Post / True Impact Marketing, Understanding the Impact of Physical Communications through Neuroscience, February 2015

2Predicting Advertising Success Beyond Traditional Measures: New Insights from Neurophysiological Methods and Market Response Modeling. Journal of Marketing Research, August 2015

3Using Neuroscience to understand the role of Direct Mail. Millward Brown

4Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, Vol 58, 013, Pages 61–68

5Ziming Liu, (2005) “Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61 Issue 6, pp.700 – 712

White Stuff Lives Up To Its Name

To provide a catalogue with nothing but white faces, as White Stuff have done, is offensive to those customers who oppose discrimination and to those who are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

White Stuff catalogue

Every face in White Stuff ‘s 108 page winter catalogue belongs to a white person- and, at a glance, every face on their website. Are they really saying people from ethnic minorities do not form part of their market? Do they really think their clothes look best against white skin? I doubt that.

Much more likely is that they’ve just not thought it through. I don’t think for a moment that the owners of White Stuff or their art director or their photographer made a deliberate decision not to use any black models but the fact is, no-one along the way to the printing of this catalogue spotted this gross omission or, if they did, they didn’t think it was worth doing anything about.

It’s most likely a simple lack of thought about the implications of only featuring white people. (White Stuff’s catalogue also didn’t feature older or physically disabled people, so we can be fairly sure there is no conscious effort in the company to bring about positive change in society.)

This whiteness that dominates the fashion industry is insidious. It creates a norm in our minds. Even if fashion leaders are not being deliberately racist, catalogues and cat walks say our society is white and that white is to be aspired to.  So it reinforces unconscious bias. That’s bad for our society.

And it’s bad marketing. To provide a catalogue with nothing but white faces is potentially offensive to all those customers who oppose discrimination and to the 13% of the population who are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Display at Debenhams
A display at Debenhams

White Stuff are far from alone. Look at any number of high street catalogues and websites and you’ll find a sea of white faces. I’ve read that top black models Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman and Joan Smalls have all complained about occasions when photographers preferred white models or only picked a quota of non-white models. 

The Edit magazine described how ‘There were times when Dunn would be on her way to castings and told to turn back because the client “didn’t want any more black girls”. There was even one instance when a makeup artist announced on a shoot that she didn’t want to make-up Dunn’s face because she herself was white and Dunn was black.’ 

But it can be done. Step forward Debenhams. All it takes is a little thought.

Here’s a tip for White Face, sorry White Stuff. Whether you’re writing copy or creating visual images, get your work double checked by fresh eyes from outside the company. It helps avoid unintended messages.


What Matisse Didn’t Cut Out

The best work is not the first work, as Henri Matisse’s constant revision of his cut-outs demonstrates

The Snail, a cutout by Matisse
Matisse Cut Outs at The Tate

One of the many fascinating aspects of the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibtion, which is at the Tate Modern until 7 September is the insight into how he worked.

Matisse first used cut out shapes as a way of trying out different compositions until he found the one he would ultimately paint. Eventually they became art in themselves but the technique remained the same. Even when he was old and frail, he would direct his assistants to move and re-pin cut-outs until he was finally happy with the relationship of the shapes and colours.

On one canvas, featuring perhaps a dozen cut-outs, researchers counted over a thousand pin marks. The lesson for all of us is that you can’t expect to get it right the first time. All great authors revise their work. So don’t expect your copy or press release or website design to be right at the first attempt. Go back to it. Try writing it again without reference to the original. Read it out loud. Let someone else read it to you. The best work is not the first work.

The author of this blog is Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.