Clint Davis Proves Promo Mailers Aren't Dead

Many people in the editorial and commercial industry still send out promotional mailers. But the truth is, if you are just sending out a flyer with a few photos, you are flat out wasting your money. Clint Davis worked a desk job as an Art Director for multiple national magazines, which gave him a front row seat to photographers and illustrators sending in promotional mailers. He branched out, and decided to defy the odds of being thrown in the trash.

Clint left his Art Director job for photography and decided if he wanted to book the jobs he dreamed of, he needed to stand out. When he decided to do a promo mailer he wasn't just going to send out paper mailers, he took ideas from what things stood out to him in the office. Finally in 2010 his idea of the "give me a shot" mailer was born. The original mailer he decided to send out was a box because he remembered throwing out pieces of paper flyers that came in like yesterday's news. But when he saw a box, it caught his eye and always ended up paying a little more attention to it. It meant someone spent time on that package, the packing, the hand addressing. The 2010 mailer included a disposable camera as well as flyer cards printed by, as seen below.



Clint had positive feedback on his first promo mailer and it was very successful. That fueled his desire to do it again, along with a higher budget. For his original fifty promo mailers, the cost came out to around $800. When that price is compared to booking possibly one gig of the 50, that doesn't seem too steep.  This time around he had a higher budget and therefore decided to take a higher risk. He knew if he was spending upwards of $140 per mailer it needed to be extremely personal and show obvious attention to detail. Which is exactly what he decided to do with his 2014 "Give Me a Shot" mailer.




The guts of the mailer:

-Pelican case with logo painted on the back (rubber feet included)

-20 5×7″ drilled lustre prints with 1 print detailing contact info

-Hand painted bullet shell by friend and local artist Christina Ramsey

-Custom foam cutout velcro’d in to precisely hold the prints, and hand painted shell

-Hand scored paper wrap with signed personalized note to recipient

-Snazzy business card

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Clint mainly targeted the first set of mailers for advertising agencies in the Greenville, SC area where he lives, and his name grew around the relatively small town. Before he knew it he was working as a designer at Cargo, an agency that represents Mercedes-Benz Canada, Microsoft, and other big names. No, it wasn't a big commercial photography gig, but eventually he was trusted to shoot the Mercedes-Benz 2014 campaign for their Sprinter van. That was his first big job, they rocked it, and since then he used that to push himself further in the commercial realm of photography. His original mailer caught they eyes of Chase Jarvis, Zack Arias, featured on petapixel, aphotoeditor, noplasticsleeves, and even PDN magazine. It was a huge boost to his morale to know that people enjoyed the budget mailer he made. Last year when he was doing some google searching for "promo mailer", he noticed it was common to see the "box" method being used. Which was a good thing, people were getting personal with what they were sending out. However he knew he had to step it up much higher to show how much he'd grown over the years. His 2014 definitely knocked it out of the park.



Images used with permission from Clint Davis. If you're interested in reading the full post on how the mailers were created, check out Clint's blog.

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Clint's mailers always shot the utmost attention to detail and his work ethic - he's never forgotten the things that grabbed his attention in his years as an Art Director at Import Tuner.

Glad to see this get press as well, since it's a huge step up from his 2010 mailers which were no slouches either!

Amazing stuff!

Brian Gibson's picture

I tried something similar to this for a job I applied for at a newspaper. I bought an old ViewMaster and made a custom reel for it with my images, including a custom wrapper for the reel made to match vintage reels. All was placed neatly in a box and delivered with my resume. Sadly, I never heard anything back on the job and they hired someone else. :(

That said, COOL stuff!

The key is volume. The more you send out the more likely you are to be seen by someone who gets/understands/appreciates your sensibilities. When you do something unusual, you have an equal chance of wowing them... or making them think you are an idiot. Mailed promo is a numbers game.

I would have to disagree and say it depends. I've set up a lot of mailing campaigns for clients and the typical 4x6 postcard usually goes right in the circular file, no matter how many you send. I came across Clint's 2010 mailer with the disposable camera last week when looking for unique ideas and he talked about how people want to see what is inside a box. A box will make it out of the mail room even if you only send one where 20 post cards are likely to end up in the trash. Now if someone is in dire need of a photographer one day and tells their assistant to find someone, that person may gather whatever came in the mail that week. So if you're postcard is in the right place at the right time, sure. I'm more likely to go with something in a box because it's more personal and feels more like a present than a piece of marketing.

I'm not sure why your your responding comment is waiting for moderation (that seems to be a glitch on this site for some reason), but I totally agree. I like your mailer, but if I were in a bad mood that day I might be grumpy enough to dismiss what you have done out of hand. Often, it really is a luck thing. All you can do is stack the odds in your favor.

I want one! That is so cool!

Tom Barker's picture

Very cool idea

Clint's always been a bad-ass with fine attention to detail. I feel sorry for his competition.

Clint Davis's picture

Thanks! Honestly it all boils down to the heart of the mailer, the photography. There is a little extra incentive considering the attention to detail of the mailer, but overall this is a tool with one goal: Get my photography in front of the right people for at least 30 seconds.

How often do you recommend sending out promos? I've always heard persistance and volume is key but I'm not sure how often. Monthly? Quarterly? Weekly? Any suggestions on this?

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

Roughly $1800 in pelican cases alone. Nice!

Well justified, if you land even a single $50k commercial gig, I think :-)

That's what we need to remember. Mail out are still a good way but since competition is fierce, the originality and expenses are (and need) to go up...

Doing this for 3k$ gig isn't worth it! It depends wat kind of fish you're going after...

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

The photographer I used to assist would make 30k for a two day job, and then around 200k for unlimited global usage. It used to be almost double that pre-2007. The market crash and a ton of talent has brought this industry to its knees.

Absolutely brilliant and I love the elegance of this.

However, I have always been really concerned by this sort of thing as it creates this concept of a "creative arms race" to see who can make the most impressive marketing tool to grab the attention of potential clients. $140 per item is absurdly high for a mailer, and while I'm sure it worked great what happens to the industry when everyone starts spending $150 per?

Then the guy who invests $300 and does something even more impressive wins. The problem this creates is that the barrier to entry continually rises to a point where only those with deep pockets have a chance of getting attention and more importantly success as a commercial photographer becomes more about who is the best at creating marketing products than who is the best at the craft they are actually marketing.

While I understand your concern, I think most people will simply reply with:

'You've got to spend money to make money.'

Of course, it is the nature of capitalism. Which has it's ups and downs. It just can be frustrating to think that we all became photographers to shoot but the industry moves more and more every day towards rewards the photographers who invest the most time/capital/focus on marketing. While a few grand to possibly secure a $50,000 or a $100,000 shoot seems trivial I fear when the market reaches a point where clients are expecting this level of investment on gigs that only pay a few hundred dollars. (Which sadly is becoming the reality for most photographers not working at the top 1%)

Marketing is a very useful thing in business but in the great big scheme of things it is a force of extreme waste. It is basically a clamouring of people playing a game of "Who can scream louder than the other". Imagine a Utopia where every minute/penny humanity spends now on marketing/advertising/sales etc can be spent on creating? Imagine how much more productive our society could be?

I see your point, but I don't think it's necessarily about having the deepest pockets. I'm not going to be spending $140 per item on promo mailers any time soon (hell, I'm still doing freebies to build a portfolio). The point is to do something creative that will make you stand out. It doesn't have to be expensive, just unique and well put together. When doing more pricey mailers, you are going on the assumption that your mailer will get a better return than postcards because it will not end up in the trash (is anyone going to throw away a Pelican case? They may not use you right away but someone will be keeping that and they will remember who sent it). You can send them out in smaller groups to spread the cost out some too, especially when dealing with shipping costs. From a marketing standpoint, small groups of mailers are easier to track and will provide valuable information, such as do you get more calls back certain times of the year.

I'm curious to know how many jobs were booked from both mailers. Obviously my opinion differs in that I don't think it's the amount you spend but getting the attention of the right people and having a good portfolio once you have them looking. I've used this one vendor for 6 years because she sent me a Nerf gun... which was less expensive than the 20 USB drives other companies sent but it caught my attention.

Jayson Carey's picture

ok, I am now stealing that idea...

I used it to shoot the construction crew that would come in my office all smelly at the end of the day lol. I'm of the opinion that there is a lot of value in something that is interactive, and quite honestly people love a legit reason to goof off at work. I have a pretty kick ass idea if you are a retoucher... which I'm not lol.

Michael Osei's picture

I'd be interested in the numbers behind it (conversion rate, job size etc.) and also in the selection of recipient's. I you spend 140 on a mailing it better be targeted pretty well. How did he select the people that were on the list? Was ist "cold" or did he make contact beforehand.

damn... Clint.. that was so awesome.. really really good job!

Now I know what to do for promo to just come up with a slogan haha the whole "Give me a Shot" idea is awesome.