If you're watching Mad Men series five, you'll know that Megan Draper has joined the creative team. In the time since we met her, she has demonstrated many skills – not least with her performance of zou-bisou-bisou – but it appears she's not yet taken seriously in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
She's the lowliest member of creative team and therefore gets the lowliest job: the coupon.
Forget the lawn-mower incident in series three, this revelation was genuinely shocking to me and, I'm sure, any other direct marketeer. How can the coupon be the lowliest job? It's like saying the donation form doesn't really matter and should be delegated to the most junior creative.
One man who knew the power of the coupon was Howard Gossage. Mark's recently blogged about Gossage's advert for The Sierra Club here and, since then, lent me his copy of Changing the world is the only fit work for a grown man. Reading it, it's clear that if Mrs Draper wants some career-enhancing advice, she should take a trip away from Madison Avenue and visit Gossage's idiosyncratic agency in San Francisco.
Gossage realised that a coupon wasn't just a coupon – it was a means of making a connection with a customer or donor. And he used coupons in many innovative ways.
Before he saw the light and used his talents to promote good causes, Gossage worked on commercial accounts. His adverts weren't just about selling - they were about building communities. Decades before Facebook, Gossage referred to consumers as 'Friends'.
Here's an example of how he built communities, via coupons, for Whiskey Distillers of Ireland.
You may notice that this advert starts mid-sentence. That's because Gossage takes up where he left off in the previous week's ad – confident that his community of Whiskey lovers was following the story. Here he offers readers a choice of badges, defining their relationship with the Whiskey Distillers. In another advert, he announced a party would be held New York to celebrate the visit of the distillers. Thousands of people used the coupon to write in and request an invitation.
Here's another example:
This advert generated the single biggest response to an advert in The New Yorker and offered one of these objects:
With no known name for it, Gossage then struggled in the advert to think of a name for his new invention.
When you look at this work, it's no surprise that Gossage started to use his talents for charities and good causes.Today, we'd call this prospecting and, most likely, use e-mail or text to make it easy for people to flag up their interest. In Steve Harrison's book, Professor Pabst of the University of San Francisco sums up the power of Gossage's approach.
'Howard put together organic communities, he let people want to opt in. He understood that we all want to belong to something, some kind of club'
That's why Gossage's ideas are so relevant to charity fundraising, still today. If you're looking for inspiration, I throughly recommend reading up about Gossage.