AGENCY MAKES ITS MAILER INTO A REAL SKULL SESSION

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McAdams, Richman & Ong expected response to its provocative direct mail campaign targeting new-business prospects. And response it got.

One of the agency's targets, car dealership Wilkie Lexus in Ardmore, Pa., threatened to call the police.

The Philadelphia area agency, with $59 million in billings, sent the four-piece mailer to about 200 potential clients including CompuServe, Columbus, Ohio; Binney & Smith, Easton, Pa.; Celestial Seasonings, Boulder, Colo.; and Aetna Health Plans, Philadelphia.

The first three pieces, sent as postcards, didn't identify the agency as the mailer.

The final piece, mailed mid-July, consists of a brochure that details McAdams Richman's campaigns for Greater Atlantic Health Service, Drexel University and others.

The piece concludes with a patient information sheet headlined, "Yes, I'd like to have my head examined." Respondents must answer questions including: Has the sight of an agency's work ever given you the urge to vomit? Do agency meetings often result in headaches, migraines or any other stress-related ailments? Has the turnover of agency personnel ever caused feelings of loneliness and neglect?

Frank Keel, public relations director at the Bala-Cynwyd, Pa., agency, said an executive at Wilkie Lexus called and angrily informed McAdams Richman that "the Wilkie organization found the campaign to be in extremely poor taste and unless we removed them from our mailing list immediately, they would call the police."

"We weren't sure if she meant the good taste police or the real thing," Mr. Keel joked. "We knew there was some risk involved with such a strange and graphic campaign, but we never expected to be tossed into a paddy wagon over it."

McAdams Richman sent a letter of apology and removed the Lexus car dealership from its list.

Not all responses were negative. Michael Colleran, general sales manager at KYW-TV, Philadelphia, told Tom Ong, executive creative director and co-founder of McAdams Richman: "I enjoyed your direct mail piece. I thought it represented the homespun creativity for which you are well-known."

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