The Lounge: Ben Weeks and his Awesome Promo

by Heather on November 30, 2009

Illustrator Ben Weeks dropped me a line back in the spring wanting to show me his book. (I know we don’t ever talk about Illustration on HMAb but I thought I’d deviate for the sake of great work and a fantastic promo). I saw the book and it was lovely. I shared it with my Art Buying team at Leo who commission more illustration than I do and the book was enjoyed all around. Here are some faves:

From the PEN Canada Annual Report:

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

For Xbox 360:

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

From a broadcast spot for the Toronto Star:

© Ben Weeks

© Ben Weeks

And then last month, the “Ben Weeks Has Many Loves” promo arrived on my doorstep. As photographed for FPO, A Division of Underconsideration, it looks like this:

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

© Underconsideration

My personalized version has the following changes:

img_5754

img_5753

This promo got a lot of press, Grafik Magazine said:

So much self-promotional material is boring, self-indulgent and a complete waste of the time, effort and the acres of expensive paper involved.

Ben also gave me this rundown of the feedback that he’s received:

GQ magazine and most of the top US and Canadian design firms emailed their appreciation for the project-a rare accomplishment considering the piles of promotional mail they receive and discard daily. One firm owner telephoned with effusive compliments as soon as he opened the poster. Japanese, German, British, Danish and Australian firms also responded. This is interesting because there was no call to action or incentive to respond on the poster as marketing textbooks recommend. So, immediately the poster generated many leads, some great new projects (from existing and new clients) and a lot of goodwill. As a long-term branding initiative the poster was right on target.

But how did Ben arrive at this particular approach? The promo is unique, big and personal. Ben sent along this well articulated, in-depth look at the process. Many interesting bits in here:

I always wanted to do something that would promote my work in a powerful and effective way. This project took 2 years and was the biggest single financial investment I’d ever put into my business.

The poster is risky because it does some unconventional things. Instead of following marketing conventions it operates with a design sensibility focusing on long term brand-building rather than instant results. We didn’t have any call to action or measurement mechanism in place. No incentives, gimmicks, toys, iphone apps, twitter/facebook campaign or trackable web links. Just a simple message.

It’s simple. But the research was intense. I built most of the 1300 name mailing list by hand in the libraries-carefully researching and selecting the most amazing people from annuals and magazines who seem to share my sensibilities. One challenge was working with the data I’d hand typed into Address Book-the program printed half my mailing labels, didn’t offer much control of the design. So I figured out a way of automating the transfer of the data into indesign where I had Daniel Pagan’s custom designed mailing labels. That improved the quality. Adbase helped me confirm and update many of the details and find the last few elusive people.

After the posters were printed it took 3 full weeks to customize each of the 1300 posters: signing, writing recipient names/circling those I’d remembered to reference on the artwork side. Then: folding, stuffing, labeling, sealing, sorting, stamping each one by hand. It was crazy to spend $800 on 12 rolls of stamps for one segment of the run at the post office. During the year I left my marketing almost completely silent so I could focus and mail all the posters out in one shot.

It was fun to write the creative brief, choose a design agency to work with and try to be a great client. I was lucky to work with one of the hottest design companies in Canada-Underline Studio. They presented so many great ideas, it was very tough to choose one. We’re thrilled with it and the results have been fantastic so far. If it wasn’t for a friend txting me I’d have missed the advertising and design awards show party. My work was on the cover of ADCC’s annual this year as part of this year’s awards show branding (Designed by Compass 360) I won a merit for some work I’d done with Soapbox! And a project I did with Zulu Alpha Kilo won a Gold. (My involvement was uncredited-but a photo of me working in the “box” is in the annual.)

I’m in discussions about doing a children’s book, gallery exhibitions and a 50 foot screen of animation for Microsoft. And am drawing maps for Toronto magazine (designed by Hambly & Woolley) and just finished artwork for Kessels Kramer in Amsterdam.

Ben also provided this further description of the piece:

Teaming up with Underline Studios I approved the concept of a direct mail poster customized for each recipient from a range of great ideas. I built an international mailing list of 1300 people over many days in libraries, writing contact information down by hand before typing it into my database. As well I purchased access to an extensive database of contacts to confirm and finalize the mailing lists data.

The poster used a special purple ink pantone color on very high quality Neenah Classic Crest paper. One side of the poster is full of drawings of images, books, ideas, type and people I love. On the back of the poster, a beautiful ornamental custom typeface by Underline says, “Ben Weeks has many loves,” and in small type below, “including you.” Often the recipient’s name was hand written below by me. On the back as well, my client list, awards, teaching and contact information were presented in a few columns of tiny type scattered throughout negative space. If the recipient’s company or was on the front (artwork side) it would be circled too.

Thanks Ben.

And, if this promo has peaked your interest and you’d care to have your own copy, it’s for sale at Ben’s site here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ben Weeks May 22, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Update on this: It won a D&AD In-Book Award for their upcoming 2010 annual. Congratulations Underline!

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: