I’m certain that in the heyday of the Roman Empire the average merchant used flyers. The concept is moronically simple. A store wants you to come in and buy stuff, so they print a piece of paper highlighting a few things they think are special, interesting or priced low enough that you might just visit the store. They wander around your neighborhood, pushing it under your door with sincere expectation that 5 or 10% of those canvassed will visit. The hope is that once in-store, wild-eyed, gluttonous consumerism will take over and result in exponentially larger purchases.

Now, some folks hate flyers so much they call the newspaper and demand that all delivery of them stop. If you’re one of those you might as well stop reading now and go recycle something because I actually like the idea of flyers. Dump ‘em at my door and if I’m interested I’ll read them, if not I’ll wrap fish with them. Also, I am not unsympathetic to the humble trees giving their lives in service of retail porn. I admit, if we eliminated all flyers we would probably save some trees. If we cancelled most commercial activities and lived in caves, growing lentils and wearing hemp shirts we might even live happier lives. Heck, if we all held our breath global warming may slow enough that Al Gore could focus on getting the next stage of the internet ready. These are fine ideas, but reality intrudes, meaning you and I need to buy stuff and flyers are still the best way to find out what going on in town and in-store. I have no beef with flyers being used. My only concern is quality.

A poorly designed flyer is like listening to an idiot salesman in a bad suit who hasn’t perfected his pitch yet. The store would be better served having that guy sweep the storeroom than allowing him to pollute the stores relationship with me. Why  put themselves at risk like this?

It’s not that hard to make a good flyer. First, use big pictures. Honestly, if I see one more flyer displaying postage stamp size pictures of products they want me to buy I will scream. Who is designing these things? You need the patience of an archeologist to decipher the forty-five items crammed onto each page. Is it that important to use every square inch of printed space for advertisement? It’s like blocking the aisles of your store with stuff. Eventually there’s just no more room to think. Let the star-power of the item sell it. If you’re selling a washing machine it should cover half the page. Big item, big picture. Look at movie posters. George Clooney covers 75% of the one sheet. This is not by accident. He is the product. Should a bicycle be treated any differently? If you’re selling a watch, go two or even four times life size. I will fall in love with the dumbest thing if you can get me excited about it. Small pictures require too much stinking work on my part. Remember, short attention span, white noise everywhere.

Next, don’t make me hunt for the price. If you have a deal, post it loud and proud. I swear, those stupid Sears flyers with two full pages listing nothing but text descriptions of items (bad enough) actually say “up to 20% off select products” in place of price. How is this supposed to get me in the door? Be specific. Show me something. A flyer should not be a puzzle or a guessing game. It should be a map to get stuff. A big, colorful and easy-to-read map of how to get stuff.

Canadian Tire is printing pretty much the best flyers out there today. I feel like I’m walking through their store when I’m reading one. Big pictures and big prices. Victoria’s Secret catalogs get an honorable mention but they get to use sex so that’s kind of cheating as far as retail comparisons go.

Just look at Canadian Tire flyers. Huge shots of power drills, generators, coolers, hammers and floor mats. I routinely consider buying the weirdest things from them just because of their lovingly crafted flyer. What in God’s name would make me want 6’gun safe? I don’t own one gun let alone enough to arm the Magnificent Seven. It looked so cool in the flyer that I actually spent quite a bit of time trying to dream up things to put in it. I gave up when the only items my list included were hockey cards and Hot Wheels. The only real Canadian Tire flyer misstep is the back page that usually features tires. It’s always the treads. They need to jazz this up a bit, turn them sideways and add some shiny chrome wheels. Anything would be an improvement.

All in all, is it too much to ask that stores make it easier for me to covet the goods they want me to buy? I would hate to be forced to remain comfortable on my couch waiting for a TV commercial with big shiny pictures to tempt me instead.

Leave a Reply