AD NAUSEAM: a copywriter's life

Tales from the copy crypt – chapter 4

Posted in Uncategorized by CopyBlogger on the October 6th, 2013

M&S Plumbing Campaign


PEOPLE TREAT INTEGRATED MARKETING AS A BIG DEAL, but companies on a budget often have no choice. Here’s a business-to-business program I devised and wrote at Stal-McLane (Manchester, NH) on behalf of Mastors & Servant, a Rhode Island insurance broker offering risk management services to plumbing and heating contractors.

The brief? Raise the company’s profile with large plumbing contractors and position Mastors & Servant as more than just a commodity insurance agent. It had to be versatile–mailer, sales handout, maybe a trade show angle. A customer, Gem Plumbing & Heating, was willing to serve as a testimonial.

After I talked with the client and interviewed Gem’s owners, I proposed a six-panel gatefold mailer.

Big foldouts have an intrigue that results in good open rates and strong impact, without the production and shipping costs of dimensional or gimmick mailers. They can be compact, yet still have lots of room to tell a complex story. Plus they make a cheap template for a fully evolved campaign. Just assign individual panels for specialized tasks: a testimonial, a trade show invitation, a reply card, an interchangeable area for particular market segments.

Then tear off a panel and recycle it as a campaign element. Voila, integration.

The first challenge was translating a rather dull insurance concept into a plumber’s blue collar terms. I thought of “leaks,” and translated that into “losses”–hard-earned capital spent needlessly on premiums and expenses because of a patchwork approach to insurance coverage. You know, like a poorly mended leak.

As a truly inept fix-it man around my own home, I imagined that plumbers would have a visceral hatred of sloppy plumbing. So my design colleague, Stephen Smith, went into the bowels of our century-old building and found some really ugly pipes that he could Photoshop into a gushing fountain of jury-rigged coverage. This was our front panel:

MS Loss Cover

Cover opened to a grimy pipe stretching across three panels, with 17 duct-taped “fixes” for common contractor problems, and copy about Mastors & Servant underneath. Stephen had created a nice graphic using a vintage monkey wrench, so I worked it into a payoff line: Get a Grip on Losses. And that became our campaign icon:

MS Theme Panel

Later that would become handy as a trade show display. On the other side of the gatefold we included a testimonial study, which easily evolved into a stand-alone print ad, as well as a tabletop card for the trade show booth:

MS Case Study

Taking it a step further, the “Get a grip on losses” line inspired my idea for a sexy premium that was sure to generate leads from contractors at trade shows–a new Leatherman multi-tool with locking pliers:

MS Premium

There you have it: one concept that spawned an integrated mailer, sales aid, print ad, trade show display and lead generator. My only regret was that Mastors & Servant wasn’t in a position to use the Web a little more proactively, for everything from banners to webcasts. But it was a hard-working idea that did very well, plugging the leaks in the company’s contractor marketing.

TALES FROM THE COPY CRYPT is a look back at lesser-known projects from Dave Conley’s 25-year career as copywriter, editor and marketing strategist. To see other samples, visit

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