Coding advertising is not the big secret or the involved
process many would have you believe.
A great many firms sell reports on how to code your advertising
for $3 or more, when it’s nothing you can’t learn with a little
study of a few mail order publications.
Coding advertisements is simply a means of determining where
your orders come from, and in cases where you don’t use coupons
or separate order forms for several different products, a method
of double checking on what the customer actually requested.
For the purpose of demonstration, let’s assume you have a
company called JONDO COMPANY, your name is JOHN DOE, and you
market publications by PRINTCO and PUB-GUYS. You decide to run
ads for different products in three publications and teaser ads
for your catalogs in two others, one for each publisher’s
catalog. Coding the latter two is easy.
For simplicity, where you put the name and address of the
company when offering Printco’s catalog, mark the name as PC
JONDO, ADDRESS, ZIP CODE. When the envelope arrives and no
indication is given of what was requested, you can tell at a
glance what was requested.
Now Printco and Pub-Guys sound and look alike, so for the second
ad, mark it JONDO-PG. If you’re advertising the same catalog in
three different magazines, use different codes for each to see
which one gives you the best response, for example JONDO-PG,
JOHN DOE PG AND P.G. JOHN. You can easily separate them as you
The permutations are endless: P.G. DOE, P. DOE, G. DOE, DPG,
JPG, JDPG, and if that’s not enough, code the address, perhaps
BOX 99, DEPT. PG, BOX 99-PG, BOX 99 DESK PG, BOX PG-99, and so
The person ordering wants to be sure you get his request and
almost always faithfully reproduces whatever is listed as the
correct address right down to the last comma. You can never run
out of ways to code. PG is the obvious code for PUB-GUYS, but
you could use an arbitrary number code chosen by you and in
fact, number codes are invaluable codes for making dates on the
ads, to see how many trickle-in orders you get long after the ad
stops running, and what months and season are most productive
for selling your products.
Date coding involves using numbers in sequence to indicate
magazine issue number, sequence number, or date published.
This coding is virtually essential in later campaigns. Once
you’ve got a fair-sized mailing list, it will be far easier to
use advertising codes to indicate their interests than to keep a
complete ledger of every person and what they purchased. It
also makes computer entry a snap, especially with a good filing
One thing that scares people about coding is receiving checks or
money orders coded like the ads. People become somewhat afraid
that they won’t be able to deposit them because their account is
registered to JONDO, not JDPG or whatever. Have no fear. Your
company will be registered to your mailing address. By showing
the clerk a copy of the advertisement with the address, there
will be little doubt as to who should rightfully receive the
money, and your checks or money orders will clear like
clockwork. If by chance you do encounter a bank that won’t
accommodate this requirement, bank somewhere else where they
understand the workings of mail marketers.