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"You have to spend money to make money." This sage advice for marketers is attributed to the Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus, who lived from 254 BC to 184 BC. It's the concept behind ROI.

When we're marketing something and our client wants the audience to perceive that something as inexpensive or a good value, we sometimes use fewer graphical bells and whistles and less expensive paper stock. On the flipside, when our client is trying to sell luxury goods or a very sophisticated solution, we adapt the design and production to look (and feel) more elegant.

Over the years we've been in business, we've helped market forty dollar jackets and multi-million dollar enterprise technology solutions. But, we've never tried to sell "Condominium homes priced from $3.2 Million." We're guessing if we did, we would definitely go the aforementioned elegant route.

That's what 180 East 88th Street chose to do. They selected a paper stock that is thick and textural and rich. They used photography that is understated but conveys affluence. And they put the piece (an oversized postcard) in a self-sealing clear envelope, which certainly made it stand out from an otherwise ho-hum mailbox.

The "art side" of the card depicts a young but clearly well-off family. Dad has hipster glasses and is sipping wine. Mom is dressed in conservative jewelry and a silk blouse. Their daughter has a (private) school uniform, pigtails, and impeccable posture. Even the family dog, enjoying a plate of scraps under the table, seems well-behaved.

The headline reads "Living in Good Taste."

The message side of the card includes a full bleed photo of the building's dramatic entrance and the message that "180 East 88th Street is a Unique Addition to the Upper East Side." There's quick copy about the sizes (2-5 bedroom half and full floor) and prices available. The call-to-action encourages us to schedule a "private viewing" and lists a representative, her number, and email.

So far, so good. The images and messaging match the exclusive nature of the product being sold. But, 180 East 88th Street did two things wrong.

First, they slapped a big, white label on their otherwise upscale piece. It's ugly; it's jarring; it obscures the classy photo beneath.

And, second, they didn't do much in the way of data hygiene or pre-qualification. The card was sent to the Queen B at her childhood home, an address where hasn't lived for more than thirty years. And, although B Direct is having a banner 2020, neither she nor the Bs is in the market for a $3 million condo in New York City. Well, not this month anyway.

The Bs give the creative a thumbs up, but the targeting and execution a thumbs down. So, the otherwise handsome piece rates only a neutral score overall.

A "unique addition to the upper east side" probably deserves better.

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