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Being Direct

By Lester Wunderman

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2019 by Michael C. Gray

Being Direct is a memoir of one of the trailblazers of marketing, especially direct marketing - direct selling of merchandise or services by a company to its customers or clients.

It is an American success story. In June 1937, Mr. Wunderman's formal education ended after one year of college because his family was struck by the Great Depression. He and his brother decided to get into the advertising business, with Lester as the salesperson. Eventually, he created his own advertising agency, which merged with Young & Rubicam and became a major force in promoting the direct marketing concept worldwide.

Being Direct is also about how to make advertising pay.

The book was published in 1996, just as the World Wide Web was becoming an enormous direct marketing medium.

Mr. Wunderman joined the major league of direct response marketing when he joined Maxwell Sackheim & Company in April 1947. Some of the accounts that he worked on included the Young People's Record Club, the Acousticon Hearing Aid Division of the Dictograph Corporation, and the Jackson & Perkins Company (the world's largest rose grower). In 1955, he launched the Columbia LP Record Club, one of the earliest multi-media campaigns, including radio and television advertising in addition to newspaper and magazine ads. He was instrumental in launching the American Express Card in 1958.

In 1958, Wunderman left Maxwell Sackheim & Company and started Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline. Among other clients, the firm continued to serve the Columbia LP Record Club. By the end of 1959, Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline became the world's largest agency specializing in mail-order advertising. In 1965, the firm was retained by the Ad Council to develop advertisements about the benefits of the new ZIP code for the U.S. Post Office.

Wunderman started promoting the concept of direct marketing, as distinguished from mail-order advertising, in 1961 and continued being an advocate for the rest of his life.

In 1973, Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline agreed to merge with Young & Rubicam, provided the company would continue to operate as an independent division.

Some of the products and companies handled after the merger with Young & Rubicam included Gevalia Kaffe for General Foods, Time, Sports Illustrated, Psychology Today, Money and Ms magazines, Lincoln - Mercury, and the Ford Motor Company. He also launched the American Express Optima Card.

An innovation for the Ford Motor Company was the curriculum marketing program. The program was an educational sequence of mailings and customer support so that prospective customers would become familiar and comfortable with Ford automobiles.

For a lifetime of lessons in direct marketing, get and study a copy of Being Direct.

Buy it on Amazon: Being Direct: Making Advertising Pay.

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