Live from ACC: Catalogers Get Critical

Picture the scene: You walk into a cavernous exhibit hall, and the room is nearly empty save for seven large, round tables. On each table sits about a dozen catalogs, with scores of attendees huddled around flipping and thumbing through the pages. Welcome to Catalog Critique, a boot camp of sorts for the direct marketer.

Part of the Sunday intensives program, the Catalog Critique was attended by roughly 150 attendees. Leading the session were Lois Boyle, president of J. Schmid & Associates; Kevin Kotowski, partner/creative director, Olson, Kotowski & Co.; Glenda Shasho Jones, president, Shasho Jones Direct; and Andrea Syverson, president, IER Partners. Attendees were encouraged to critique the creative elements of catalogs, from copy blocks to photos.

One 11-year-old cataloger of home electronics that submitted its catalog for a critique probably got more than it bargained for. “When I see the cover of the catalog, I don’t want to open it up,” complained one attendee. Another chimed in, “I thought this was a real estate book.”

A housewares and home decor cataloger was given this piece of advice: “This product page in the center of the book is too busy. I think it takes away from the integrity of this page.” The cataloger listened intently to the well- intentioned advice and then flatly said, “Well, that’s the way management likes it.”

While few people like criticism, the exercise is valuable, said Sunnyvale, CA-based catalog consultant Kathy Revello. “Then it’s up to the attendee to go back to their office and implement the advice.”

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