The Difference Between Direct Response vs. Agency-Styled Marketing

Yesterday I came across a print advertisement that clearly illustrates the stark difference between agency-created, brand-oriented marketing and traditional direct response marketing.

As I will share in a moment, this print ad almost scored a touchdown in my opinion, but it trips at the last moment, just inches short of the goal line of being a truly exceptional piece of advertising that looks great, but also sells effectively.

In broad terms, typical agency-styled marketing is focused on:

Compare this to effective direct response marketing which is focused on:

  • Giving a reason or the recipient to respond. Now.
  • Selling something. Now.
  • Tracking and measuring the ROI of every dollar spent

I know my agency friends can point out all the successes they create for their clients, but in my opinion, for the Main Street, small business owner, this type of marketing approach can be hugely wasteful.

Back to the print advertisement I want to share with you…

The ad can be found in the October 2017 issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine and it’s a two-page spread for La Aurora cigars.

While it may be hard to see in the picture, what’s make this two-page ad stand out is the inclusion of a small, informational booklet “pasted” into the right-hand page.

The use of information in marketing is not new and if you’re not familiar with the concept of information-first marketing, I shared another example here (interestingly with another piece of cigar marketing).

[On a side note, I believe so much in the power of information-first marketing, I helped launch a company dedicated to helping retailers leverage it – Infotail, which currently serves the independent mattress retail niche.  In this business, we use several different types of information-first booklets to help consumers navigate the pitfalls of buying a mattress and the results for our clients are extraordinary.]

Let’s get back to this ad and booklet.

As you can see the booklet is nicely designed and helps the reader understand the unique components of La Aurora cigars.  While I could point out the readability issues created with the design, that is not where the BIG mistake is made.

The big mistake made, which is the result of the focus of branding versus response, is that after reading this booklet, there is no compelling reason why the reader should take further action and become a La Aurora customer.

There is NO call-to-action and no pathway for me, the reader, to follow.  Instead, on the back cover, is the typical (and traditional agency) fumble of simply including phone number and web site address and thinking this is enough.

Friend, I don’t know about you, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to get people to take action these days and simply throwing out your contact information as your best effort is not going to do much for you.

What could be done differently to make this good advertisement great? 

Here are three quick ideas I came up with and I would love to hear how you would improve it.

  • I would add some type of CopyDoodle element near the booklet telling me it’s there and to pull it out of the ad.  I missed it the first time through the magazine since it blends so well into the background.
  • I would have more “reader-focused” copy telling me what I am going to experience based on all the unique things they do to make the cigar, e.g. “Our perfectly-aged tobaccos will coat your taste buds with the deeply satisfying taste of dark chocolate.”
  • I would have a special invitation/offer in the booklet to entice me to do more than simply read the booklet, e.g. “Bring in this coupon to your local tobacconist and get a free cigar when you buy three.”

Obviously, it’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback this worthy effort and overall, I’m impressed with the attempt to help me understand the unique qualities of this cigar.

But it pains me to see them get so close to the goal line and not get the ball across it.

In today’s short-attention span world, it’s far too easy to ignore a message or procrastinate on acting.

As a marketing-oriented business owner, you cannot invest money to get attention and not offer a CLEAR and SIMPLE path for the next step you want the person to take.

About Mike Capuzzi

Mike is a publisher, Amazon # best-selling author, and coach for business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders looking to stand out from the competition by authoring, publishing and leveraging short, helpful books. He is the author of 19 books, including two Amazon #1 Best Sellers. Learn more about his publishing opportunities at


  1. darryl on August 24, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Awseome. Mike I found out about you last week in Dan Kennedys Ultimate sales letter Book. Wow U GOOD Thank You will be getting copydoodles soon.

    • Mike Capuzzi on August 24, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Thanks Darryl!

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