ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Database Knowledge Helps Copywriters Write Creative

Updated on July 16, 2014
Hindustan Lever Direct Mailer Response Device
Hindustan Lever Direct Mailer Response Device | Source

What is a Database?

It’s not so much the brilliance of the creative, but its relevance to the recipient that determines its success. This relevance depends largely on the information contained in the database. According to Drayton Bird, it’s the agency’s job to enrich the knowledge held on a database on every available opportunity.

As Bird explains, a database is a list of names and addresses with details about the people or companies on that list. The details incorporated should be those – and only those – which help the direct marketer to speak to people in a relevant and timely way. This means that the questions asked in the response device should be devised with care. Database cannot be divorced from creative.

Says Bird in his Commonsense Creative notes: "The imaginative use of these details enables you to say the right thing to the right person in the right way at the right time – in other words, eliminate junk. You could say that the database is the commercial equivalent of your brain, which in everyday life allows you to recognise different people and react to them according to what you know about them.

Thus, you obviously speak in a different way to a young person than an old person; to someone important rather than someone unimportant; to somebody who is a close friend as opposed to someone who is a mere stranger; and you only speak about things you believe will interest them.”

He adds that the same holds true for advertising: people tend to buy more as a result of advertising they like; and that advertising they like means not advertising that’s clever or ingenious but advertising they think is relevant.

Hindustan Lever Direct Mail - Follow Up Letter
Hindustan Lever Direct Mail - Follow Up Letter | Source

How Database Knowledge Helps Creative

The writer should begin with the individual he’s writing to. Is he a customer or not? It is well known that a customer is more likely to reply than a non customer, and the writer can refer to the past relationship in a mailing, using details of past purchases. ,On the other hand, if the prospect has not replied to the previous mailings, there’s little point sending out the same message to them again.

In Bird’s words: “The idea of gaining information from the response was developed by Reader’s Digest many years ago when they came up with the yes/no option. The first thing I would like to say to you is that I have never seen a yes/no option in a mailing pack fail to work. Although a great many noes tend to be received, you will get more yeses simply by encouraging people to choose.

My first recommendation to you is that any mailing you send out should at the very least incorporate this simple form of information gathering. Apart from anything else, it will give you a list of people who don’t want to receive mail, therefore saving you money and lifting response the next time you mail that particular selection of names. My second recommendation to you is that you should always consider the use of questionnaires.”

Response Device For IBM Direct Mailer
Response Device For IBM Direct Mailer | Source

More Options for the Response Device in Direct Mail

In between the simple yes/no and the questionnaire, there is a myriad of possibilities the writer should also consider, suggests Bird.

  1. Yes/No/Maybe – first devised by a well known freelance copywriter, John Francis Tighe.
  2. Yes/No/Not now, but later – people want to buy when it suits them, not when it suits the direct marketer.
  3. Yes/No/Not this but something else. Here the writer gives a list of alternative products they may be interested in, and thus have an opportunity to cross sell.

According to Bird, “You can use your imagination to think of alternatives such as finding out from people that they are not interested because it is too expensive. If you’re going to go to all the effort of getting a response, then get one that is useful and helps you plan ahead and communicate accurately."

If agencies make a point of consistently working to enrich the database at all levels, they don’t have to fight to get people reading – because they are always interested in hearing from them at the right time about the things they have told them they are interested in. That is what direct marketing is all about.

Copywriters Can Write Relevant Creative Using the Database

An enriched database enables direct mail writers to write creative that is relevant to their prospects. For instance, they will address customers and non customers in different ways. They can offer various options that will make it easy for the prospect to reply, such as the Yes/No option. Another element Bird recommends is the questionnaire. All these methods serve to help direct marketers offer the right products at the right time to their prospects, thus building their business.


Drayton Bird’s Commonsense Creative notes previously only accessible to employees of Ogilvy & Mather.

Drayton Bird: How To Get The Results You Need From Your Copy... And Your Career An Exclusive


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)