Chase Jarvis SHORTS: 08/09 Holiday Mailer Unboxed

In full disclosure, I’m probably not the best person to pay attention to for stellar direct mail promo pieces. We did score a PDN Self-Promo award back in 2006 with this piece, but outside of that, I haven’t historically had a cohesive plan about this sort of stuff. And so it continues here today. But that’s not stopping me from wanting to share them. Actually, I’m proud to say that this is my second year in a row doing a holiday/new year mailer – I guess I’m on relative roll…which is what compelled me to roll out this latest Chase Jarvis SHORTS.

Postcards? Nope. Blurb book? Nope. 8×10 Glossy? Nope.


What the…who…huh? Coasters? Yep, coasters. They’re useful and different.

Again, I’m not necessarily advocating this to everyone as a means of marketing photography, especially seeing that this here item doesn’t show any real “work” – photographs or directors reel – but I thought it was interesting from an outside-the-box sort of an angle. And that counts for something. Plus, this being as much a unique gift as it is a promo piece, I felt good about sending it out.

Things I liked about the mailer: unique. useful. cool custom stamp. some personality. the packaging. atypical. the line art (our crew looks more like the Reservoir Dogs than a photo studio staff, and I dig it.)

Things I didn’t like: no actual work featured. cost (not cheap).

A closer look at the finished product, a step by step process of how we created these little suckers, and a call to action after the jump. Click ‘continue reading’ below.

Step by step, how we made these things:

1. Shot group portraits on white backdrop. Since there was 7 of us, we shot in two groups.
2. Composited the group together in Photoshop.
3. Used the stamp filter and threshold adjustment to reduce the image to its basics.
4. Exported a .psd to Illustrator.
5. Using live trace, converted to vector art.
6. Saved Illustrator file according to specs our printer provided.
7. FTP’d file to printer. (We used Girlie Press here in Seattle.)
8. The printer created a die for our agreed graphic.
9. They sent us a sample, run through the actual letter press on paper stock we’d already selected.
10. We approved the sample and then they went to town and printed a couple thousand.
11. We ordered stamps featuring an image of mine at
12. We ordered boxes and red sticker dots from
13. We ordered tissue from
14. We ordered Avery labels from
15. We assembled them ourselves over a couple bottles of cheap red wine.
16. We mailed them out with glee.

Here’s a jpg closeup of the coaster.

We had a great time with it and feedback has been great.

If anyone feels like posting links to other creative promos–yours or someone else’s–I just might track you down and mail you some coasters… Love to hear from any lurking ADs, CDs, ABs, or PEs, of course.

[Like these short little videos featuring strange things? Check out Chase Jarvis SHORTS: Pimped Photography Van]

RSS and email subscribers can see the video here.

68 Responses to Chase Jarvis SHORTS: 08/09 Holiday Mailer Unboxed

  1. Shelby White February 4, 2009 at 11:02 pm #

    Any chance I could snag a few of those coasters?

    Would absolutely love to have some.

  2. Dave Taylor February 4, 2009 at 11:11 pm #

    This is a great idea, love the originality. I got tired of handing out business cards that I knew everyone was going to lose anyways. So I designed custom bookmarks that had all the contact info on them on the back, and the front had image “slivers” – like vertical panos. Came in matte and glossy. They were VERY popular. Come to think of it… gots to get more bookmarks made:)

  3. Phat Baby Photographer February 4, 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    Coaster, bookmarks… great ideas. You’ve inspired me to think of something creative for my Easter mailing.

  4. garyallard February 4, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    Damnit! We need those for! I dig letterpress anything. Think I stumbled by the studio when Scott and Dartanyon were editing the cocktail glass images. Cool to see the final product. Now, send me some.

  5. Nick February 4, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    Those are great! I have a friend that is giving away his convertible Porsche 911- I think that’s pretty cool promo :)
    If anyone is interested you can see the giveaway and photos of the car here

  6. Adam Kaplan February 4, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    I’ve gotta say that I dig Gregor Halenda’s promo. He started out with sending a completely blurred photo, and then each successive mailer became increasingly focused. It was featured in the Oct ’08 PDN issue with the Self-Promo Awards.

  7. Adam Kaplan February 5, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    Best I can do for a link is this:

    Navigate to category 7, then click ‘next’ until you see him.

  8. Martin Wolf February 5, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    Great idea and looks fantastic!

  9. Vancouver, BC February 5, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    riSeymour Butts eh?? Good to keep in contact with those ‘family businesses’…
    Keep it up Seymour.

  10. David Burke February 5, 2009 at 4:50 am #

    Beautiful! I love the way your mind works Chase :-) Always gets me thinking! Happy New Year!

  11. Matt Allen Photography February 5, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    Great gift! Way better than a pear from Harry&David.;

    If you have any leftovers I think you should run a contest on the blog to give them away.

  12. jeremy earl February 5, 2009 at 6:14 am #

    that is pretty cool, are they disposable or plastic? how do you build your mailing lists?

    (not so much loving the camera work this morning, a little to cloverfield for me, got a little motion sick! haa haa)

  13. Jonny February 5, 2009 at 6:59 am #

    Cool! They even look great too. Have you gotten any responses yet?

  14. Chuck Carver February 5, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    Love it Chase,
    Not in your face and still gets your name and brand across well. Great Job and I like the “shorts” intro – way cool.

  15. Chaz Boyd February 5, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    Thats an awesome idea. Good promo since everytime someone will use a coaster, I’m sure the folks who don’t know will ask who you are.

  16. Miles@SW February 5, 2009 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Chase and staff!

    This is the seasonal design for a retouching company over here in Belgium (just in case, that’s above France)
    Really like the work they put into it, and your effort as well!
    Great to see creative mailings.
    Okay if I put the beer in the fridge while waiting for some of your Über-fresh coasters?
    Kind regards

  17. Gary Eddleston February 5, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Such a simple design yet a superb result… Coaster work in any situation!

  18. PhotoRunner February 5, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    I like that it’s got a reference to your url. That alone on a coaster is enough to motivate me while I’m having a beer or something to take a peek at the website on my iphone.

  19. Anonymous February 5, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    Funny that your outside the box idea came in a box!

    What weight is the paper used for the coasters?

  20. andycollins February 5, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    Very nice! check out

  21. Mark February 5, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    Very cool, creative idea, Chase.

    Just wondering…are you keeping it green? Between the packaging, tissue paper, and coasters themselves…what’s your recycle percentage?

    All the best from NJ

  22. levi February 5, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    that was pretty cool. good thinking!

  23. Jarrett.Franklin February 5, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    That is an awesome idea. As an advertising guy that would definitely catch my attention.
    These aren’t mine, but I love the creativeness behind them. Lock pick business cards. They actually work.

  24. Brad Wenner February 5, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    I have been making packages of little prints to send out, response has been pretty great. These are not all that pricey to make either:

    Any lurking PE’s or AD’s who want one send me an email.

  25. Rüdiger Hinzmann February 5, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Oh no, my english is sometimes awful (didn’t know the meaning of coaster). At the first glance I thought you mailed them white boxer shorts with a groupshot and I thought “Cool, thats very cool and creative!”. But then, stop, not boxer shorts. Coasters for bottles. Ok…..
    Not bad either.
    But I think… boxer shorts… cool…

  26. Anonymous February 5, 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    Good thinking!

  27. Robin February 5, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Is it possible to buy a couple? Awesome!!
    Where do you get all those freakin’ great ideas from? =)


  28. February 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Red dot…. Leica fan?

  29. Chase Jarvis February 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    Thx for the interest. If you are serious about wanting some of these puppies, send an email to production at chasejarvis dot com with your addy. IFF we are able, we’ll send some – but probably won’t be in fancy packaging etc. If we are unable or buried, hopefully you’ll understand.

  30. Fotografi February 5, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    Fine and really amusing.
    Also nice cards.

  31. Alleh Lindquist Photographer February 6, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Sweet idea. Marketing right now should be on everyones to do list.

  32. Jessica Peterson February 7, 2009 at 11:39 am #

    very smart & chic. love it~

  33. GBlack February 9, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    Great idea! – The important part is to ensure THE person/decision maker you are targeting is the one that opens the box. A “touching bases” phone call from one of your staff to let them know you sent them something would increase the impact a lot. It’s proven that these things are 70% more effective with a friendly call.

    Another idea would be to send out disposable cameras to clients with a tag line saying something like – “In case this camera doesn’t work out for your next campaign, remember I’m just a phone call away!”

  34. Ryan Golla February 10, 2009 at 6:28 am #

    Check out They have some really nice promotional stuff – business cards, promotional cards, stickers, etc. Very quick delivery! Check out my business cards: Moo MiniCards

  35. Nathanael Gassett February 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

    Entirely too cool. I’m jealous. :D

    I don’t have anything neat like that, but I’m quite happy with my delivery system. Prints are placed in clean black envelopes (from Action Envelope) and sealed in wax with my initial. Once I get a logo locked down I plan on having it made into a signet ring for a really personal touch to everyone’s orders. It’s been around for centuries so it’s not exactly innovative! But I love it, it’s completely my style.

    Now I really want to think of something else to do. Marketing fascinates me. Glad to see great work!


  36. JD February 10, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    I love the coaster idea. I’m also glad to see another agency doing their “holiday” promo in February.
    We did sculptures this year, but I’ll have to keep the coaster idea handy, maybe as a personal card…. Professional bar fly.


  37. dan c February 11, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    The video is gone as it was a holiday promotion, but my agency sent out rubber chickens for Christmas this year. We attached a note explaining we’ve all had enough rubber chicken dinners, so we decided to donate food to the food bank in the recipients name. It got some laughs and had a few people talking…

    We had a bunch hand delivered around town, but for the mailed ones we vacuum packed the rubber chickens using a food saver and mailed them in see through plastic envelopes we made ourselves. Pretty funny looking in the mail.

  38. Timothy Lusk February 11, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

    Great short, Chase. Clean, simple, memorable. Love the gift.

  39. Crash Taylor February 11, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    Rock on Chase!

  40. February 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    I was anticipating you being sponsored by Nikon to sport a new line of designer shorts that are fashionable yet as handy as those dorky photographer vests worn at many a sporting event. My bad. I guess I’ve been reading too much of the Sartorialist blog lately.

  41. Brian February 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    These are great Chase… thanks!!! =) It was super awesome meeting you and the team last week! Definitely one of the highlights of my week!

  42. London Wedding Photographer July 13, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    I'm a bit late to the party commenting on this but I must say impressive job. I know companies who have spent thousands in coming up with similar stuff- your method just blows all others out the water. Packagine is my biggest bug bear at the moment – it's way too expensive to have something custom made in the UK to this quality.

  43. Jon S6 Photography November 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    nice coasters!

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    Consistently innovative.

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