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Great direct mail campaigns generate high levels of response. Unfortunately, sometimes bad direct mail generates response too, just not the kind that serves to increase sales.
It would appear that French auto-maker Renault created their own version of a Dutch oven with a direct mail effort in the Netherlands that went all wrong. The mailing, in support of a recent ad campaign for the redesigned Twingo automobile, resulted in many irate husbands and wives who took issue with the content of a letter they received.
The Renault campaign, chronicled here by the Daily Mail, targeted women with “handwritten letters purporting to come from a unknown admirer who called them “darling” ” and “suggested meeting soon for a drink and signed themselves “lots of love, M”.”
The effort was so successful in generating response that:

The Amsterdam headquarters of Renault was bombarded with angry calls from more than 500 people – mainly women, among whom the car is popular – who had received the letters in the post.

”We had some very angry people – couples were having a lot of discussion – some of it very heated – at home about who this letter could be from.” …. They complained their partners either suspected them of carrying on an illicit affair behind their backs or that they believed they themselves had a secret admirer wanting to meet them.

My guess is that, once the gag was revealed, subsequent dinner conversations with these couples did not focus on the features and benefits of the new Twingo.
In the end we can chalk this one up to a bad concept containing very believable copy. Too believable in fact. In a world of endless marketing ideas, sometimes there are those that should never make it beyond the white-board of the brainstorm session. This would be one of them.
Hat tip to Dave Oakes of Carlson Marketing for alerting me to the story.