I didn’t realize that this technique of marketing had a name until I was working on a PowerPoint slide last week.
“A Johnson Box is a box commonly found at the top of direct mail letters, containing the key message of the letter. The purpose of it is to draw the reader’s attention to this key message first, and hopefully grab their attention, enticing them to read the rest of the letter. The Johnson Box is named after direct marketer Frank Johnson, who is credited as having first used the Johnson Box to improve response to his offers for American Heritage magazine. He does not claim credit for creating the device, claiming to have only popularized it.” Johnson died at the age of 88 on March 6, 2001.
See an example of a letter, believed to be from 1959, that contains a Johnson Box at the top, here. More on Johnson can be found here.