One size fits all?

At AJ, we don’t think so.  We believe having a selection of ad sizes and formats gives a number of advantages.   Here’s why.

A portfolio of creative gives us the flexibility to:

  • widen the audience by selling the same product in a different way
  • broaden the schedule by tailoring the messaging and style to the readership
  • use a range of sizes to maximise the available short term deals
  • reduce saturation of key titles by having a range of sizes, messages and styles appealing to their full readership in different ways

A typical AJ client has four to six styles of creative in three or four different sizes running at any one time.  Creative produced for reading light specialist, Serious Readers, represents a number of these features.

Individual headlines illustrate a range of product applications


Two customer images demonstrate breadth of product suitability


Tailored copy specific to the publication
Varied sizes and formats allows optimisation of late space deals

These tactics also develop brand recognition by default and lead to increased spend whilst improving ROI through close monitoring of results.

This helps us grow media spend – in some cases by up to 400% while ROI is also increasing. We don’t charge for our creative service, but we clearly don’t sell our clients short either.  Quite the opposite.

To discuss how we can improve your ROI, please contact Client Services Director, Ann Gardiner, on 01225 758222 or email



Look and feel: why inserts work

Nowhere is the term ‘look and feel’ more appropriate than when talking about inserts. They offer an additional vehicle for lead generation, replacing or complementing other advertising channels. AJ uses them successfully with clients by broadening or re-working existing media schedules, managing the process from start to finish.

Inserts can access previously unreached audiences by using a wider range of distribution mediums.  Catalogues and statements mailings, for example, help you reach those who don’t

read newspapers and magazines, and offer unequalled opportunities to be highly-targeted.   They give customers a call to action literally ‘in hand’, resulting in greater response rates and are proven to drive online traffic.

At AJ, we manage the entire process from creative concept, through print and distribution, to the end of campaign analysis.  We work with a core of reliable printers, booking and placing each job according to the best price on the day.  Rates can be unpredictable, so we never make false promises. We simply promise to buy as cost effectively as we can.

Media and print are priced separately to ensure we’re totally transparent, and there’s no requirement for clients to buy their print through AJ.  Some clients have preferred suppliers or simply prefer to book their own.

We are also 100% impartial so can plan and buy the most appropriate and cost effective programmes; we only recommend opportunities we think are right.

Whether you have never used inserts or don’t feel they work for you, why not see whether AJ can plan and buy better for you?

Contact Alice Buttling or Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email or

Titles on the Up

Many titles appear to be accepting an ongoing circulation decline, so it’s great to see others bucking the trend.  How are they doing it?  Are they simply printing more copies, like the Evening Standard?  It appears not.

Common themes are price and producing concise news.

The Daily Star reduced its cover price and in doing so proved cost was an issue for some of its readers.  Not only has the paper managed to halt the decline in its circulation figures but has taken share from The Sun, to achieve a 14% year-on-year increase, now nudging a 500,000 circulation.  At AJ, we don’t use this title very often as it’s not a great fit with most of our clients’ target audiences, but love what they’ve achieved.

The I is another title proving price matters.  With a circulation pushing 300,000, it has overtaken the Guardian and Observer, and is closing in on the Sunday Telegraph.   It’s amazing to see a newspaper can launch in the current day and reach this level of circulation.   We love this title and it achieves great results for our clients’ products; from reading lights to coffee pods, oak extensions to cashmere sweaters.

The Times has also increased its year-on-year figures by nearly 10%.  No price change, just a quality product and, over the last 12 months, more engagement with news and politics.  Without an increase in rates, The Times has become a very strong title for us – a top 3 performer for many of our clients.

A couple of other titles showing year-on-year circulation increases are the Week at 206,000 and Private Eye at a record 250,000, thanks largely to Brexit.  Both these titles work really well for us.

The days of buying newspapers and magazines are certainly not dead.  To succeed or remain successful, titles must adapt to the current times and needs of the population; in some cases, cash rich/time poor, with others just cash poor.   We would encourage national newspapers to test price points and content more often, much as we do for our clients when trying to find the winning formula and maximise returns.  We don’t always succeed first time, but we keep testing and do whatever we can to turn results around rather than accepting a decline.

What’s your favourite position?

How important is the position of your ad?  Right, left, facing matter, solus, display, classified…… What’s best and how much of a premium, if any, should we pay for prime sites?

In our experience, we find positioning ads with editorial is far more important than whether they are left or right, front or back half.  We also see a far higher response rate from ads facing matter, under matter and in solus sites.

It is then about how much you pay for these superior sites.  We always try to secure, and often do, premium positions without incurring extra cost.  We rarely find the higher ‘display’ rates are cost effective for our direct response clients, although there are some short-term exceptions.  There are, however, some great sites we buy through and classified teams which work particularly well.  Examples include: page 2, ‘Sunday’, Sunday Telegraph; solus, ‘Home’ interiors or gardening, Sunday Times; solus, puzzles page, Daily Mail; full page facing matter, midweek, The Times and Daily Express.

We have successfully increased ROI for clients through stronger positioning.  Partner this with relevant editorial and you are on to a winner!


Weekend changes at the Telegraph – what’s the verdict?

Four weeks on from the launch of the new Telegraph sections, what have we found? Alice Buttling-Smith gives us an update.

A bit of a mixed bag to be honest. No drastic differences but, overall, it’s looking positive. Relaunches often mean price hikes for clients, but this hasn’t been the case.  Short-term availability has remained pretty much the same.

The creation of several premium sites is the primary benefit of the new format. We believe good positioning is key to strong results.  Of particular note has been the page 2 solus 25 x 4 in Sunday, which has worked really well for our clients.  This is also true for the 25 x 8 under the games and puzzles at the back of the section.

We have booked a number of clients into these sections, and based on what we’ve seen so far, we’ll be continuing to do so.


Creative workshops: If it’s broke, fix it

Just like top athletes, even the best creative can fatigue. If results aren’t on target any more, it could be time to freshen up.  AJ’s creative department is just that – creative. Whether surprising existing clients or delighting new ones, the team is expert at developing innovative ideas and re-working old ones.

Attuned to the symptoms of creative fatigue, AJ uses in-house creative workshops to examine its work for existing clients.  The new creative is presented to the client not only with the changes highlighted but, more importantly, the reasons why.  It makes clear to them what the work is aiming to achieve – to be better, stronger, more effective and to grow business.

For new clients, creative workshops emphasise the importance of good creative in a way which can be better appreciated by an untrained eye. By their very nature, direct response ads are not always ‘beautiful’.  Taking clients through the reasoning also helps those new to DR advertising understand why the right creative and skilful media buying go hand-in-hand.  Neither one can go it alone.

Case study: Damart strives for innovation, fun and vitality through its range of thermal clothing.  Our aim is to produce creative to reflect their aspirations as well as improve results.  We took Damart’s existing block-style ads and made some simple but effective changes to the layout, background and style of writing.  We introduced a graphic to communicate the key message, bullet points for easy reading and a ‘benefit’ headline.  The ‘call to action’ was also enhanced with a coupon and the panel describing the offer re-worked to boost its appeal.  We produced a series of ads with different offers, all aiming to upsell and, in turn, increase ROI.  Damart have started using two of these ideas with the potential for using more based on results.

Case study: Donald Russell sells quality meat off-the-page.  Their meat is sourced from animals raised on the pastures of Aberdeenshire in Scotland, so has an impressive provenance.  When we evaluated their creative, it was obvious this compelling part of the product offer was not being portrayed in their creative.  They were also restricting their advertising spend to the Christmas period alone.  The success of our new creative saw spend increase to enable activity beyond Christmas to cover Easter and the summer barbecue season.

To learn more about how we can produce the right creative for you, contact Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email

Making press advertising work

Advertising is an essential element of any promotional campaign, but has to be right to work. Several clients started working with Attinger Jack disillusioned with press advertising believing it ‘doesn’t work for us’.  Employing AJ as a specialist full service direct response advertising agency has changed their minds and transformed their approach, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Outcome: Re-establishing successful customer recruitment channels

When reading light specialists, Serious Readers, started working with Attinger Jack in 2015, inserts had become the dominant customer recruitment channel.  Press advertising had taken a backseat because performance remained unprofitable year on year.  Charged with delivering profitable OTP sales for the range of Serious Readers lights, AJ set about developing creative and media strategies to re-engage the company with media successfully and grow their business.  By the end of the year, the press response target had been achieved with detailed attribution analysis showing press outperformed inserts consistently, becoming the lead source of sales.  The 2016 budget increased by 100% and the ROI targets beaten.  The campaign, which had been seasonal (four months a year), now runs for 10 months a year.

AJ Approach: The key here is attribution.  We needed to offer Serious Readers’ customers an incentive to provide a unique code so we could track the ROI.  Rather than offering a discount, the client opted for offering a free gift.  This produced two benefits.  Sales increased due to the incentive and we established the source of those sales.  With a small £20K test budget, we designed new creative which drove sales quickly, rather than enquiries, showing a big improvement in the results.  As a result, we have (i) increased the title list by 150%, (ii) a range of ad sizes from a full page to a 20 x 2 and (iii) a portfolio of ads so we can minimise the saturation in our key titles and ensure we are appealing to every potential audience.

Outcome: Responding immediately to performance by tracking ‘live’ data

“I had given up on press completely, now I am excited about it again.” Stephen Sacks, Owner

Wallace Sacks, an online furniture retailer, came to Attinger Jack not achieving their ROIs through their existing press advertising.  A key feature of AJ’s subsequent media strategy for Wallace Sacks has been a focus on attribution.  By allowing AJ to become actively involved in their business, with easy access to good quality intranet data, Wallace Sacks enjoys detailed analysis and week-by-week media planning in return.  Seeing ongoing press spend performance maintained above target levels, and by as much as 30% in key months, Wallace Sacks’ new-found confidence in press advertising is reflected in an 400% spend increase.

AJ Approach: When we first met Wallace Sacks, the only press working for them was advertorials set by the newspapers.  The traditional direct response ad formats failed to deliver the required ROI.  With this knowledge, we produced a range of advertorial-style ads, telling a story about the company and the product.  We also offered a large discount with a code used at check out.  The success of these ads quickly overtook the advertorials, and we now use almost all national newspapers and a wide range of magazines, with a range of sizes, sections and products.  The spend increased from £20K to £100K a month.  In addition, once we had maximised press, we ran similarly-styled inserts to make the most of their key periods and new audiences.  Our third tactic was TV.  In summer 2016 we produced a TV commercial from stills at a cost of £8K, with a £10K test media budget.  Their previous TV test hadn’t worked, but with improved creative, an incentive to quote a code and buying rates of 60% lower than their previous agency, we hit the ROI target and have now run a further four campaigns.

Outcome: Responding immediately to performance by re-building from scratch

Thomas Sanderson is another AJ client reaping the benefits of allowing the agency to become integrated into their company, accessing ‘live’ data on a daily basis through their sophisticated sales recording systems.  A ‘back to basics’ approach was used at the beginning of AJ’s relationship with Thomas Sanderson, developing creative over time for each product, responding immediately to performance through high-level attribution methodology.

AJ Approach: Faced with such poor press results, stripping ‘back to basics’ was the only way forward when AJ took over the account.  We produced hard-working, offer-led creative and reduced the buying rates, cutting back spend until we had the results back on track.  The ads wouldn’t win any beauty contests but they delivered high quality leads and a resulting ROI to validate the approach.  Building the schedule slowly, based on results, saw the spend return.  This allowed us to introduce emails, online display, lead generation, competitions and TV into the media mix.  Constantly refreshing the creative and bringing new ideas to the schedule has allowed us to maintain the results moving forward.

“We have been working with AJ for 6 weeks and already we have seen a significant increase in our press enquiries, better value for money and positions on our advert placements – they have revived press for us!” Nicola Owen, Senior Marketing Manager

Outcome: Increasing opportunities to advertise effectively

As a market leader in quality cashmere knitwear products, the Cashmere Centre saw Christmas and Easter as their only clear opportunities for press advertising.   In just a few months, AJ’s skilful media buying and new creative helped Cashmere Centre see ROI increase from 2:1 to nearer 4:1.  The tactics used saw AJ illustrate their ideas to the Cashmere Centre through new creative for their sister brand James Alexander and introducing the men’s range to off-the-page.  This was partnered with a small test budget.  Once tested successfully, a media plan was rolled out gradually increasing spend to ensure the required ROI.  As a result, the company’s growing confidence in what works for them has seen spend double with a media schedule now running beyond Christmas throughout the New Year.

AJ Approach:  The client was happy with their results.  They simply accepted they drove the media plan and the product was seasonal with a short customer recruitment window, mainly during the Christmas gifting period.  This had never previously been challenged but AJ saw an opportunity to maximise key periods. By analysing the results and testing titles with a similar profile to the top performers, the title list was broadened and new product lines added to the off-the-page activity.  Great introductory rates, a wider range of ad sizes and lengthening the season have all contributed to seeing the spend double and the ROI improve significantly.  This year’s Jan/Feb campaign is a first, and we have inserts planned for Easter.  Using the results from press we’re developing a low risk, robust plan which we’ll build on in their key winter period.

How are you feeling about press advertising and what it’s doing for you?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

To find out more about how AJ can help press advertising work for you, contact Alice Buttling-Smith or Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email or

Media Buying: in-house or agency?

Is the investment made in out-sourcing media buying to an agency worth it?  A legitimate question clients often grapple with when reviewing marketing budgets.  These three AJ clients definitely think the investment is money well spent, seeing substantial benefit from employing the agency as their specialist press media buyer.

AJ has worked with bespoke blinds and shutters’ designer, Thomas Sanderson, since 2013, at which time cost of sale for blinds was 90%; shutters 61%.  Three years later, those figures now stand at around 13% for blinds and 21% for shutters.  A combination of new creative, full media analysis, new sizes, sections and offers transformed press into a cost-effective channel.  The confidence resulting from this clear and measurable value, led to TV, email, inserts and lead generation being added to the media mix.

With access to the company’s sales intranet, AJ are able to track sales to individual products within each ad created for Wallace Sacks, the on-line retailer of home and garden furniture.  AJ effectively becomes the marketing department, taking full control of the marketing plan.  The agency decides the titles, sizes and products for each ad, before allocating the copy and codes, loading them on to the company intranet.  Reporting back to the client on a daily basis, AJ is able to show exactly what returns the company enjoys from each ad placed.  Since employing AJ as their agency, Wallace Sacks has seen ROI increase by 25%.

The relationship we have developed with the agency is totally transparent and they have become our virtual marketing department within a short time. The impact they have had on our business is in no way incremental but all-encompassing and vital to our ongoing progress.” Stephen Sacks, Owner.

Reading light specialist, Serious Readers, employed AJ after becoming increasingly disappointed with their previous media campaigns.  Having used a small test budget successfully, AJ now receives a substantial spend, from which the agency has lifted attributed ROI by 500% and made press their most cost effective medium.

“Another record breaking week of sales for us last week – beating the record from the previous week. Ads are not the only contributor of course but a significant factor. Thanks to all at AJ for doing a fantastic job.” Richard Read, Senior Marketing Manager

Growing a client’s business is AJ’s single-minded goal and we never give up.  Our planning process cycle of test, learn, refine and optimise produces a continual range of fresh ideas and responsive creative at the lowest possible cost.

For more about how AJ can enhance your media buying, contact Alice Buttling-Smith or Ann Gardiner on 01225 758222 or email or

Attribution: Cracking the code

Being able to determine the source of a sale or track customer behaviour accurately is a critical part of media planning.  But constructive attribution is not easy now customers have an increasing range of buying options and methods available to them.

At AJ, we use a collection of tools to improve the quality and quantity of attribution, making sure activity is measurable and media spend effective.  Assigning unique codes is one such tool used to achieve better attribution specificity.

For Aquability, a leading supplier of bathroom mobility solutions, unique codes provide a m
echanism by which to analyse the 300 ads being run each quarter.  Over the 18 years of working together, AJ has grown the Aquability business from £30K to £180K a month whilst
maintaining marketing percentage.

Offering an incentive to quote a unique code produced good outcomes for reading light specialists, Serious Readers. From a low starting point, press has now become their leading source of sales, with ROI increasing by 500%Kinetico, designers and manufacturers of water softeners, offer a free installation as an incentive to use unique codes and telephone numbers so results can be analysed to better effect.  In a similar vein, online furniture retailer, Wallace Sacks, give a substantial discount incentive.  The resulting data generated on a daily basis enables AJ to plan week by week to maintain press spend performance.  Using this approach, Wallace Sacks spend has increased by 400% with ROI improving by 25%.

The many elements able to be scrutinised include ad copy and size, press titles and sections, and days of the week published, as well as volume and cost of leads plus conversions to appointment and sales.  The resulting optimisation of media plans and schedules and growing return on investment enables AJ clients to increase media spend with confidence.

Thomas Sanderson, maker of bespoke blinds and shutters, is a good example.  AJ works hard with them on attribution, using robust data generated from unique codes tracking right through to sales.  Seeing results improve significantly over the last three years, including a reduced cost per enquiry of 85% for blinds and 54% for shutters in the first nine months, the company has doubled its media budgets.

Quality attribution methodology gives AJ and its clients a detailed understanding of how every media channel is performing at any time.  Consequent scheduling is designed to deliver the greatest volume of high-quality response – exactly what every client wants from a Direct Response advertising agency.

For more information about the success of AJ’s commitment to developing attribution, see Knowing What Works: