Originally Published December 7, 2005

Fishing 101

Fishing 101

Marketing consultant George S. Cullinan (1911-1963) was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame in 1989 for being “the first to recognize the significance of databases as a foundation for successful direct marketing.”

Today we’re going to look an another George Cullinan creation: the “circle layout.” This concept is an idea of value to everyone who uses words and images to promote business.

Artists Don’t Think Like You Do

Cullinan believed that the art department should never be trusted to correctly lay out the advertising, that instead those decisions should always come from the merchandising department.

Since Cullinan didn’t expect his merchandise buyers to become skilled artists, he suggested that they use a simple set of circles of various sizes to communicate with the art department what to include, and the relative placement and space of each element.

In a circle layout, the number of circles is equal to the number of illustrations, headlines, and story elements to be included. Of course, one need not be limited to oval shapes. Rectangles have their uses, too. The key is to use the relative sizes of the shapes to quickly convey the approximate importance of each design element.

Example 1: Newspaper Ad

Let’s assume that my local newspaper has offered to build my new ad. I’ve told the newspaper account executive about my business. He should be able to take this sketch and his notes to his advertising department and bring back an ad proof with no surprises.


Example 2: Catalog Page

Were I working with an advertising agency, I’d be providing the agency raw information and this sketch. I’d expect their artists and copywriters to be able to build my catalog page pretty much as I’d imagined it.


Example 3: Flyer

If I needed a local printer to make up some flyers for my business, I would provide the photo or line drawing, my logo, and the selling verbiage to be included in the copy. Any local printer should be able to follow this concept and deliver the flyer I’m expecting.

It’s Communication

Why should you provide the circle layout to your commercial artwork provider? Simple. She isn’t you.

You’re the person responsible for moving product. You probably already know which advertising elements will capture attention and motivate a purchaser to buy. Who knows better than you do exactly what must be emphasized? Or what could be left out? Whether the photo or the body copy needed more emphasis? Whether or not to include a coupon?


How (and What) to Lay Out

Before starting your circle layout, make a checklist for yourself, and include such items as:

  • Headlines
  • Photos / illustrations
  • Body copy
  • Prices
  • Special offers
  • Coupons
  • Logos or other company identification
  • Legal disclaimers

Modify your checklist so that nothing gets overlooked during the planning stages.

It Even Works for Non-Visual Media

Cullinan developed the circle layout for catalog pages and flyers, but I’m sure you can see that this simple communication method can work equally well for other media.

Not only will you find it useful for magazines, newspapers, and billboards, but you’ll find that it helps the copywriter of your television ads or radio ads to better understand the message you need her to deliver. I wouldn’t hesitate to give a copy to a direct response writer who was composing a solicitation letter.

Try it on your next advertising project and see if you don’t agree. I’d love to hear how you implement the circle layout in fishing for customers.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Have questions about communicating your vision to your service providers? Drop Chuck a note at ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com. Or call him at 304-208-7654.