The Cottura Catalog, 1998/1999 Edition

As several of the judges note, the creators of the Cottura catalog clearly love the maiolica ceramics sold within its pages. But enthusiasm alone does not an Award winner make. Happily, Cottura supports this enthusiasm with sterling copy, lavish photography, and solid customer service.

The front cover depicts a giant mask of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and merriment. And while one judge feels that the lack of text makes it unclear just what the catalog is selling, the back cover works extra hard to compensate: In addition to promoting a set of peony-patterned planters, it offers an enticing description of the front-cover mask.

Indeed, the judges single out the copywriting throughout the catalog for special praise. Not only does it consistently romance the merchandise (“Set your table and dine like Florentine nobility”), but the order form details the process of creating maiolica, a brightly colored form of ceramic that flourished during the Italian Renaissance.

The catalog design, with its oversize pages, shows the merchandise to its best advantage. Nearly every spread includes a full-bleed photo, and even on pages with text, the pictures are allowed to dominate. “Showing the products in real settings, such as on a table that’s ready for a meal, is helpful in providing a sense of scale,” says one panelist. But several other judges find that when as many as a dozen products appear in one shot, it’s difficult to match the description and price in the separate copy block to the applicable item in the photo. And while the panel admires what one judge calls the “extensive and colorful product offering,” which includes clocks, Christmas ornaments, and even dog bowls in addition to tableware, one judge adds that the catalog could benefit from “separating the merchandise into distinct product categories.”

As befits a luxury item such as maiolica, Cottura promotes its bridal registry service and offers free gift wrapping. The company also invites customers to call with special requests: “Our collection is vast and we may carry the piece in one of our stores. If not, we travel to Italy regularly and will be happy to try to find it for you.”

It’s those sort of extras that compel one judge to describe the catalog as “customer-oriented and very respectful.” Add to the mix wonderfully informative copy and generous photography, and you get what another judge calls “a catalog that creates a desire to buy.”

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